San Jose woman who lost limbs was not caused by undercooked fish, illness still a mystery

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A San Jose mother who went through a quadruple amputation after allegedly eating undercooked tilapia remains in the hospital. 

But according to public health officials, Laura Barajas, 40, was not sickened by Vibrio, and now her illness is a mystery. 

Barajas’ close friend, Anna Messina, previously told the press that the infection was caused by Vibrio. 

Barajas purchased tilapia in July from a local market in San Jose and cooked it for dinner. “Little did she know that this simple act would change her life forever. The following day, Laura realized something was terribly wrong, and she was diagnosed with Vibrio,” Messina wrote. “On September 13, 2023, all four of Laura’s limbs had to be removed in order to save her life.”

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department officials were immediately on the case. 

SCCPHD wrote, “Preliminary information has now been received regarding this individual, confirming that no laboratory tests are positive for Vibrio. Several different diseases including but not limited to Vibrio can cause tragic clinical outcomes like this one. Public Health is actively investigating to confirm if a cause of this illness can be identified.”

The county’s public health department monitors local medical providers and laboratories for any unusual infections and diseases. “Public Health investigates reports of suspected Vibrio each year to prevent potential risks to the public,” SCCPHD wrote.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a Vibrio bacterial infection can be caused by eating raw or undercooked fish, or by exposing an open wound to coastal waters.

Messina says she and Barajas’ family are still waiting to learn more about what happened.

A GoFundMe page for Barajas has raised more than $111,000 in donations. On Monday, Messina wrote that “Laura is healing well and looking forward to moving out of the ICU into another room at the hospital.”


Charlene is a Bay Area journalist who hails from the small community of Fresno. Drawing from her experience writing for her college paper, Charlene continues to advocate for free press and local journalism. She also volunteers in all the beach cleanups she can because she loves the water.