Doctors say a Dallas man made a deadly mistake before taking a trip to the beach.
According to an article recently published in BMJ Case Reports, the 31-year-old man died after the bacteria vibrio vulnificus entered his body through a new leg tattoo.
The report says the man obtained the leg tattoo five days before swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, where vibrio vulnificus can be found in high levels during the summer months.
Treating physicians, including Dr. Nicholas Hendren of UT Southwestern Medical Center, say the man arrived at Parkland Memorial Hospital three days after exposure with extreme pain in his leg.
"Very quickly, over a couple of hours, it began to get more discolored, more bruised and had large blisters that began to form, which was certainly alarming to us as it was to him," Hendren said.
Hendren's report says the man had chronic liver disease and told them he drank six beers a day.
People with a weakened immune system, a liver disease/condition or an iron-related disorder are especially vulnerable to serious infection from the bacteria.
Most cases, however, are mild and come from consuming raw oysters, Hendren said.
"The most common symptoms in healthy or mild infection are just some nausea, some vomiting, some diarrhea," Hendren said. "For severe infections, like our patient, extreme pain, rapid changes in skin discoloration, rapidly changing wounds within a matter of hours are all signs that there is a potentially serious infection going on."
The reports says the man was extubated on the 18th day of admission and began aggressive rehabilitation.
"Unfortunately, his clinical status subsequently deteriorated, ultimately leading to his death due to a myriad of complications related to cirrhosis, renal failure and necrotic skin lesions approximately 2 months after admission," Hendren said.
Dallas tattoo artist Caleb Barnard did not know the victim, but he says the incident should serve as a reminder about tattoo safety.
"Stay out of the ocean. Stay out of the river. Stay out of the lake. Stay out of the pool. Stay out of the hot tub," Barnard said, about caring for a fresh tattoo in the first two weeks.
"If you adhere to what we tell you do to, you shouldn't have any problems at all," he said.