Longtime N.D. lawmaker on trip to New Orleans dies from infection after eating raw oysters

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Courtesy: (WDSU Digital Team)

A former North Dakota lawmaker died from what doctors believe was a bacterial infection she contracted after eating raw oysters in New Orleans.

Former Rep. Raeann Kelsch, of Mandan, North Dakota, was hospitalized over the weekend during a trip to visit relatives in New Orleans.

According to a page set up for her on CaringBridge.org, Kelsch’s condition worsened Saturday and she went into septic shock the next day. Her relatives said the former lawmaker was put on a ventilator, dialysis and was being given antibiotics and medicine.

In an entry dated Tuesday, Kelsch’s relatives said her heart gave out.

Doctors in New Orleans believe Kelsch, 58, contracted vibrio vulnificus. Most people in the U.S. who become infected with it get it from eating raw or undercooked shellfish, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We all appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers. We shared each one with her,” relatives posted on Kelsch’s page.

Vibrio vulnificus is a naturally occurring bacteria that arises in warm, salty seawater. Infections are rare, though more common in those with compromised immune systems.

NBC affiliate KYFR-TV reported that Kelsch represented her district from 1991 to 2012. She served as a lobbyist after her tenure as a lawmaker.

A spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Health issued a statement:

“The Department of Health was made aware of this unfortunate situation. We have reached out to the family and we have begun our formal investigation. Investigations such as these are confidential but we will alert the media and the public if necessary for public safety and awareness.”

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