After getting a new tattoo a 31-year-old man went swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.
The beginning of the story was quite simple. A man got a tattoo on his right leg. That was an illustration of a cross and hands in prayer and the words “Jesus is my life”. Five days after getting his tattoo, the man decided to go for a swim in the Gulf of Mexico. As CNN announces, just three days after that, he was admitted to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas with severe pain in both of his legs and feet. His symptoms included a fever, chills and redness around his tattoo and elsewhere on his legs.
After getting inked everybody should follow some simple but critically important rules to avoid dangerous infections. The most important is to keep your new tattoo clean and covered while healing. And no soaking it, just quick showers, no baths, no swimming. Every time a tattoo gun pierces your skin, the needle is opening a wound and certainly another pathway by which germs can enter your body. The larger the tattoo, the more you increase your risk of possible infection.
“A lot of our patients, when they come to our institution, come in sick — and he was certainly among the sicker of the patients that we’ve had come in,” said Dr. Nicholas Hendren, an internal medicine resident at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and lead author of the report. “He said he had a lot of pain in [his right leg]. That, of course, drew our attention right away.
“Within a few hours, things had progressed pretty quickly,” he said. “There’s darkening skin changes, more bruising, more discoloration, what we call bullae — or mounds of fluid that were starting to collect in his legs — which, of course, is very alarming to anyone, as it was to us.
“He was already in the early stages of septic shock, and his kidneys had already had some injury,” Hendren said. “Very quickly, his septic shock progressed from … early stages to severe stages very rapidly, within 12 hours or so, which is typical for this type of infection.”
Moreover the man had chronic liver disease from drinking six 12-ounce beers a day. He was immediately placed on a ventilator to help him breathe and given potent antibiotics.
The man tested positive for Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium commonly found in coastal ocean water. The CDC estimates that this infection, called vibriosis, causes 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths every year in the United States. The strongest risk factors are liver disease, cancer, diabetes, HIV and thalassemia, a rare blood disorder.
“In the USA, most serious infections appear to occur with the ingestion of raw oysters along the Gulf Coast, as nearly all oysters are reported to harbor V. vulnificus during the summer months and 95% of cases were related to raw oyster ingestion,” according to the report.
“For patients who are healthy, this organism very rarely infects people,” Hendren said. “If they are infected, most people do fine and essentially never present to the hospital. But in patients who do have liver disease, they’re susceptible to much more infection.”
Hendren said that it doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t get tattoos.
“It’s if you choose to get a tattoo, do it safely, do it through a licensed place, and make sure you take care of the wound and treat it like any other wound,” he said. “That’s important.”