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Everything you need to know about the flesh-eating bacteria

Posted at 8:47 PM, Jul 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-24 12:18:44-04

TAMPA, Fla. -- Recent cases of flesh-eating bacteria have left families with traumatizing experiences after spending time in the Florida waters. In just this year alone, several families have come forward after their loved ones contracted a flesh-eating bacteria.

Over the weekend, a 77-year-old Florida woman died just a week and a half after she scraped her leg in the water while visiting Coquina Beach.

A day after her cut, Lynn Fleming became ill and eventually went to a hospital. She was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, the infection commonly known as the flesh-eating bacteria.

"You kind of heard once or twice, flesh eating disease, that kind of grabs you, but you would never think that happens to you," her son, Wade Fleming, told ABC Action News Monday.

Back in April, a man from Ohio got sick and developed a massive swelling on his left foot after going on a boating trip near Weedon Island.

"Initially, I thought maybe it was a sunburn," he told ABC Action News in April.

Barry Briggs, from Waynesville, Ohio, was later diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, just like Fleming. Briggs told ABC Action News that his surgeon believes it was vibrio vulnificus.


According to the CDC, necrotizing fasciitis is rare, but people with compromised immune systems have a harder time fighting the infection. The CDC says one in three people who contract the flesh-eating bacteria will die.

ABC Action News compiled basic and key information you need to know about vibrio vulnificus so you and your family will know how you can stay safe out in the Tampa Bay area sun.


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.