Back on May 29, a plane traveling from the Canary Islands to the Netherlands had to conduct an emergency landing. One of its passengers had such a strong and unpleasant odor that other passengers felt unwell, so the plane was grounded in Portugal. Sadly, the cause of the smell was much more dangerous than simple bad hygiene.
Andrey Suchilin, a 58-year-old rock guitarist from Russia, boarded the Transavia flight from Gran Canaria with his wife, Lidia. He’d felt unwell before flying but local doctors had told him he just had a mild infection picked up from the beach. However, on the plane, fellow passengers began complaining about the terrible smell he was producing, some even vomiting and passing out. Not realizing he was actually very sick, they tried to confine him in a bathroom before eventually landing in Portugal and removing him from the flight.
"It was like he hadn't washed himself for several weeks," fellow traveler Piet van Haut told the Express. "Several passengers got sick and had to puke."
While in Portugal Suchilin headed to the doctors only to find he was suffering from a very serious ailment. Flesh-eating bacteria were spreading through his body. This led to the stench as his flesh was essentially rotting from the inside out.
This disease is known as necrotizing fasciitis and has serious complications if left untreated. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to spot early on as it has symptoms pretty standard for any infection like fever, pain, and swelling of the affected area. That’s why physicians didn’t manage to diagnose Suchilin in time.
Doctors in Portugal placed him into a medically induced coma and tried to stop the bacteria from spreading to prevent organ failure. Sadly, they were unsuccessful, and he passed away without waking up on June 25.
In a Facebook post on May 30, Suchilin wrote that his health insurance had expired. “The tragic and comic component of this whole situation is that I caught a disease, which (let’s not say how and why) makes a man quite stinky,” he added.
There are a number of types of flesh-eating bacteria that lead to necrotizing fasciitis, and they tend to enter the body via wounds. Some are contracted in the ocean, meaning that injuries like coral cuts can be particularly dangerous.
However, the disease is very rare so there’s no need to worry. Always ensure you keep cuts clean and seek medical attention if you start to feel unwell from an infected wound. As Suchilin’s case shows, it’s key to catch the bug early. Treatment includes antibiotics and surgery to remove the infected tissue and stop the bacteria from spreading, but clever new solutions are also being developed.