TAMPA, Fla. - State and local health departments want to warn you about a microscopic bacteria that can turn your day at the beach into a life threatening ordeal.
What the waterborne vibrio vulnificus can do to your skin is almost too graphic to publish. And if you swallow the bacteria, the results can be deadly.
Butch Konietsky, 59, was fishing and crabbing in the Halifax River in Volusia County Saturday.
The next day, he noticed a fast growing welt on his leg that sent him to the emergency room. By Monday, he was gone.
"They tried multiple antibiotics, but nothing was touching it, or even phased it," said Butch's sister in law Debbi Stack.
Florida has seen 30 cases of this deadly strain of Vibrio Vulnificus, three of them in Hillsborough County. A Hernando County woman lost a leg in July to the infection she picked up swimming in the Gulf.
Vibrio Vulnificus lives in salty or brackish water. It's either ingested, commonly through warm water shellfish like oysters eaten raw or enters the body through an open wound.
"That would be when the water has vibrio in it and you already have a wound or you suffer a wound while you're in the water and the bacteria gets into the wound that way" says Hillsborough County epidemiologist, Michael Wiese.
Most healthy adults will suffer food poisoning like symptoms and recover in a few days but people with liver or immune disorders are the most likely to lose their fight against this tiny killer.
"By the time they're developing symptoms and they start to feel sick and try to get medical care, unfortunately, that's when they will start treating very aggressively with antibiotics. But for some folks it's already a little too late" says Wiese.
Don't eat raw seafood, or do so at your own risk especially if it comes from warm water.
Secondly, don't come in contact with salty or brackish water if you have a wound. If you get a scrape in the water, clean and disinfect and then watch for any signs of infection.
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