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Alleged Flesh-Eating Bacteria In Carnival Cruise Hot Tubs Triggers Grossest Class Action Lawsuit On Record

The plaintiff says he nearly lost his leg after it turned black and it was only saved after $70,000 in medical bills.

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Tab Lankford, who was on the ship Paradise, claims he contracted "hot tub folliculitis" from a Carnival whirlpool:

The severe infection nearly cost him his leg. "The entire leg turned black and they wanted to amputate," said his attorney, John Billera. After a week in the hospital and $70,000 in medical bills later, Mr. Lankford's leg was saved, but he still bears the scars from the flesh-eating infection. When Mr. Lankford contacted Carnival regarding his infection, he claims a guest relations specialist told him that there were more than fifty other passengers on the same cruise who came down with the same illness from using the hot tubs.


The suit alleges that more than one Carnival ship has featured dangerous hot tub bacteria. In May 2012, Maria Osoriocano and Andrew Smith reportedly became severely infected with MRSA and staphylococcus aureus from using the hot tub.

Per the CDC, there have been no reports of MRSA spreading through recreational water but there is the potential of spreading MRSA at recreational water facilities through contact with another person’s MRSA infection or contaminated objects and surfaces.

From Aly Bello-Cabreriza, Carnival public relations:

The lawsuit is meritless. All pools, whirlpools and water-based amenities on board our ships are properly maintained and their water content properties are routinely monitored. We take sanitation and cleanliness on our vessels very seriously and water quality is confirmed through periodic inspections by the U.S. Public Health service. Our guests may rest assured that these shipboard amenities are maintained via strict standards and practices to ensure a clean and safe environment. We decline to comment further given the pending lawsuit.

As for hot tub folliculitis, it doesn't appear to be routinely as dangerous as alleged in this case. The first symptom of hot tub folliculitis is an itchy, bumpy, red rash. Symptoms can appear from several hours to 2 days after contact with the bacteria.

The rash may then "turn into dark red, tender nodules, have bumps that fill with pus, look like acne, be thicker under swimsuit areas where the water has been in contact with the skin longer and people who shared the hot tub may have the same rash."

Adrian Carrasquillo is the White House correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Adrian Carrasquillo at

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