After swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, a 31-year-old man died after his tattoo became infected with a flesh eating bacteria.
According to reports, the man had recently gone a tattoo on his right calf. Even though men and women who receive new tattoos are encouraged not to go swimming for several weeks, the man went for a swim in the ocean just five days after he received the tattoo, according to a BMJ Case Report published last May.
Several days later, he started developing and showing signs of infection with symptoms including fever, chills, and inflammation. The man would arrive at the hospital with red and painful abscesses on his legs.
Doctors were shocked by how fast the person’s lesions were becoming worse and worse. Physicians suspected he had developed an infection with a bacteria that lives in warm coastal waters called Vibrio vulnificus. In rare situations, the bacteria can enter the body through an open wound and cause life-threatening bloodstream infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Moreover, the man previously suffered from alcoholic cirrhosis, a liver disease related to heavy drinking, which could have increased the risk of the bacterial infection.
Physicians treated the man with antibiotics. However, he developed septic shock. It would require further treatment, and in a few weeks, he was well enough to start a rehabilitation program. But, his condition worsened soon after, and two months later, he died due to complications related to liver damage, skin lesions, and kidney failure.
The CDC reports that among the 80,000 people who become sick with the Vibrio vulnificus bacteria infections each year, only 100 people die from the disease. The bacteria is most commonly seen as a foodborne illness when people eat contaminated seafood or undercooked shellfish.
Ultimately, it is recommended that anyone who gets a tattoo waits until the flesh art completely heals, which can take several weeks, before going swimming.