Hurricane Harvey responder contracts deadly bacteria in floodwaters

J.R. Atkins said he recognized the symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis immediately after a mosquito bite became infected

By FireRescue1 Staff

HOUSTON — A Hurricane Harvey responder almost died after contracting a deadly flesh-eating bacteria from the floodwaters.

Statesman reported that former firefighter and paramedic J.R. Atkins noticed the symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis, a skin infection that kills soft tissue, as soon as a mosquito bite around his wrist became infected.

“The next morning, it had gone across the bone on the bottom side of my wrist,” Atkins said. “Then, like, maybe four or five hours later, it crossed the wrist and got into my hand. Anytime the (swelling) moves across the joint, that’s, I’ve always (been) told that’s a bad thing.”


J.R. Atkins and I went to high school together. So glad that he is alive and well. His kindness and compassion drew me to him in the first place, and it's good to know that he's STILL a hero.

Posted by Leslie D. Lanagan on Thursday, September 7, 2017


Atkins was immediately rushed to the ICU when he went to the emergency room, where he underwent several surgeries to take out the dead or dying tissue. He was released from the hospital Sunday.

Atkins urged people who aren’t training in floodwater rescues to be careful.

“What I would like people to understand is that I went out in storm water,” Atkins said. “I didn’t go out in sewage, and so if you look at what’s going on in Houston and you look at the drainage issues, there’s way worse stuff in there.”

Posted by J.R. Atkins on Sunday, September 10, 2017


The CDC said infected individuals can lose tissue, including entire limbs, and the infection can be fatal. They added that the symptoms can feel like a pulled muscle at first, and the person’s skin may become warm, turn red or purple and swell quickly. 

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