A 31-year-old Texas man who died after a flesh-eating disease ravaged his arm while he was rebuilding houses damaged by Hurricane Harvey has been remembered as a "devoted Christian father" who remained committed to his faith until the very end.
The Houston Chronicle reports that Josue Zurita, a carpenter, contracted a severe bacterial infection called necrotizing fasciitis while helping repair several homes damaged by flooding from Harvey.
The disease, which affects fewer than 20,000 people a year, attacked the upper portion of his left arm, causing Zurita to go to the Jennie Sealy Hospital in Galveston earlier this month. He passed away less than a week later.
"It's most likely this person's infection occurred where bacteria from Harvey debris or floodwater entered his body through a wound or cut," Dr. Philip Keiser, Galveston County Local Health Authority, said in a news release. "This is a very rare infection that doesn't make it any less heartbreaking for (his) family and friends."
Zurita's obituary described him as a "loving father and a hard working carpenter" and said that he moved to the United States from Mexico to provide support to his family.
"He remained to help with the rebuilding after hurricane Harvey that hit Harris and Galveston Counties," it reads. "While working the current rebuilding efforts he was struck with an illness that claimed his life. He will be remembered as a loyal friend and devoted Christian father who remained faithful to his Catholic Faith."
So far, a GoFundMe account for Zurita's medical expenses has brought in $3,555.
Zurita is not the first victim of the infection triggered by the aftermath of Harvey; earlier this month, medical officials ruled that 77-year-old Nancy Reed was killed by necrotizing fasciitis after she fell and cut her arm at her son's home and Harvey floodwaters infected her wound.
Additionally, J.R. Atkins, a former firefighter and medic from Missouri City, Texas, became infected by the bacteria which entered a bug bite on his arm.
"We're surprised we saw three of them in the region, but given the exposure to all the construction and potential injuries that people would have ... it shouldn't be surprising. It's well within what we would expect given those numbers," said Keiser.
Health officials have urged those still participating in the Harvey cleanup to properly care for their wounds to avoid a similar infection.
"The Galveston County Health District (GCHD) reminds people working on Hurricane Harvey recovery projects to be aware of proper wound care following the death of a man from a rare infection."
Since 2010, about 700 to 1,100 cases occur each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Necrotizing fasciitis is a serious bacterial skin infection that spreads quickly and kills the body's soft tissue," notes the CDC. "Unfortunately, necrotizing fasciitis can be deadly in a very short amount of time. Accurate diagnosis, prompt antibiotic treatment (medicine that kills bacteria in the body), and surgery are important to stopping this infection."