Single flea bite leads to amputation of man’s hands, toes, family says
SAN ANTONIO (Gray News) – What started as a single flea bite has now left a Texas man without hands or toes.
Michael Kohlhof, 35, believed he had flu-like symptoms until his feet went numb.
According to a GoFundMe post from Kohlhof’s family, he went to the emergency room on June 19 and was admitted to the ICU with septic shock.
Kohlhof was diagnosed with typhus, an infectious disease spread to humans by fleas, lice and chiggers, his family said.
His brother told KENS 5 that the kind of typhus Kohlhof had was from a flea.
Doctors told the family that most people treat the disease early after seeing a swelling or rash at the bite mark, but Kohlhof’s brother told KENS 5 that he never had those symptoms.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flea-borne typhus occurs in tropical and subtropical climates around the world, including areas of the United States - southern California, Hawaii and Texas. However, it is a rare disease in the U.S.
Kohlhof was put on a ventilator, and the day after he was admitted to the hospital, doctors told the family to say their goodbyes.
He defied the odds, was taken off sedation July 1 and opened his eyes a few days later, his family said in the GoFundMe post. But his complications didn’t stop there.
Family members said in the post that doctors amputated both of his hands July 10. On Thursday, doctors amputated his toes and part of his feet.
His family said Kohlhof is a handyman and art lover, with all his passions centering around the use of his hands.
According to his family, Kohlhof does not have health insurance, so they set up the GoFundMe to help pay for medical expenses.
“Michael has strength and will be undergoing an excruciating amount of surgeries, therapies and rehabilitation, mostly to restore activities of daily living. But he shouldn’t have to worry about the financial pain,” the GoFundMe reads.
The CDC says there is no vaccine to prevent flea-borne typhus. The best way to reduce your risk of infection is by avoiding contact with fleas, including keeping fleas off pets, avoiding contact with wild animals, and using insect repellent when spending time outside.
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