HOUSTON — A woman who lived in a Houston suburb that suffered severe flooding from Hurricane Harvey died earlier this month from flesh-eating bacteria that infected her through a tear in her skin, according to the Harris County medical examiner's office.
Nancy Reed, 77, died Sept. 15 of necrotizing faciitis, more commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria, her autopsy results released Tuesday confirmed.
“It was difficult to learn because we saw her a lot, very often, at all of our events," said development manager Erica Badamo of Village Learning and Achievement Center, an educational center for adults and children with disabilities.
Reed had been a donor and longtime volunteer at her church and several nonprofit organizations.
“God has gained an amazing angel," said Tina Tilea, administrative specialist for the center. "We’re going to miss her."
The infection spreads quickly through muscle tissue and can cause organ failure.
"It's tragic," said Dr. David Persse, the city's emergency medical services director told the Houston Chronicle. "This is one of the things we'd been worrying about once the flooding began, that something like this might occur."
Since 2010, 700 to 1,100 cases have been occurring in the United States each year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Harris County Institute of Forensic Science marked Reed’s death as the 36th in the county related to Hurricane Harvey. County emergency response officials have tallied at least 80 deaths in flood-affected areas since the storm hit Aug. 25.
Contaminated storm water was the underlying cause of at least one other death during the hurricane and its aftermath.
Clevelon Brown, 64, of Galveston County picked up a bacterial infection from standing in flood water and died of sepsis, an immune-system response to infection that causes widespread inflammation.
Rescuer J.R. Atkins, a former firefighter and medic, was infected with necrotizing faciitis through an insect bite on his arm while helping neighbors in Missouri City, Texas, about 15 miles southwest of Houston, the Chronicle reported. He survived.