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Ohio man contracts flesh-eating bacteria in Tampa Bay, nearly loses foot

Posted at 5:51 PM, Apr 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-29 17:16:44-04

Warning: This article contains graphic images

TAMPA, Fla. — Just days after a Florida fisherman was diagnosed with a rare flesh-eating bacteria, a second family has come forward with a similar story, this time outside the Gulf of Mexico.

RELATED: Flesh-eating bacteria infects Florida man fishing off coast of Palm Harbor in Gulf of Mexico

Barry Briggs, from Waynesville, Ohio tells ABC Action News he was visiting family in Tampa for Spring Break when he became sick after a boating trip near Weedon Island.

“Early that Sunday evening I got a little swelling, initially I thought maybe it was a sunburn,” he said.

Briggs said his foot started to swell, but he was able to make his flight home to Ohio. When he got there, he was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria, however, he added that the surgeon still believes it was vibrio.

RELATED: Woman dies two months after getting flesh-eating bacteria while vacationing in St. Pete, Florida

The infection, known for eating away a person’s flesh, is considered to be a life threatening condition.

Group A strep bacteria is considered to be the most common cause of necrotizing fasciitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Necrotizing fasciitis is an infection that can come from numerous bacterias, one of them vibrio vulnificus, which is considered rare in Florida, according to Florida's Department of Health.


Professors at University of South Florida tell us vibrio vulnificus thrives in warm water, but it's best to assume it is always in the water as it is natural occurring.

One infection that can come from vibrio vulnificus, is necrotizing fasciitis.

Vibrio can be in any water, however, it likes less salt so it's more common in Tampa Bay than in the Gulf of Mexico.

It is most common in March through December.


Florida's Department of Health tracks vibrio vulnificus -- in 2018, there were 42 cases with nine deaths.

The state agency does not test waterways for vibrio, but they test cultures from people who are diagnosed with the bacteria.


There are a number of factors to come in to play to get vibrio, but some of those include immunocompromised individuals who possibly have chronic liver disease, kidney disease or weakened immune systems, according to the DOH.


Those with the weakened immune systems who have open cuts, or wounds have chances of getting vibrio, but the chances are rare. You have a better chance of getting struck by lightning.

Briggs was rushed into Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio in March after returning home from his trip in Tampa.

"Once this thing took off, and it takes off quickly apparently, it was going one inch an hour up my leg," said Briggs.

RELATED: Man dies from Vibrio vulnificus infection that he got from eating oyster in Sarasota

For Briggs, doctors said they could not find any open cuts or wounds on him. Usually, it takes a break in the skin to allow the bacteria to enter the body.

“I don’t remember being scratched, a poke, or a bite,” said Briggs, “The doctors looked when I went in and couldn’t identify anything.”

The CDC also says it can happen from blunt trauma.

The Ohio man spent 11 days in the hospital being treated. He underwent skin grafts and was put on several different antibiotics.

Briggs has used a Facebook page, Barry’s Medical Update, to post the raw images of what the flesh eating bacteria can do — leaving his foot and shin without any skin.

For him, it was how quick the bacteria developed, what started out as slight bruising turned into an inflamed dark, black bubble.

This story comes just days after we first reported on Mike Walton, a Florida fisherman who was poked by a fishing hook twenty miles off the coast of Palm Harbor.

Walton was rushed to Tampa General Hospital and placed in the burn unit where he also underwent several skin grafts on his hand and wrist.

Walton is now recovering at home.

The CDC says since 2010, there are approximately 700 to 1200 group A necrotizing fasciitis cases each year, but they think it’s an underestimate.