A Tennessee man died last weekend from necrotizing fasciitis, a fast-acting, flesh-eating bacteria, two days after a trip to a Destin, Florida beach. This case comes just 10 days after 12-year-old Kylei Parker contracted the same infection in Destin. The bacteria nearly took Parker’s life and required three surgeries.
As for the Memphis resident, his family told WWMT news they “knew some bacteria [could] infect through open wounds and cuts,” but they had no idea his compromised immune system was putting him at risk, too.
Cheryl Wiygul said her late father started feeling ill hours after visiting Destin Beach, quickly developing a large black sore on his back, and red bumps on his arms and legs. “We never would have let my dad in the water if we would have known… it was going to be that easy for him to catch something.”
Her father was undergoing cancer treatment, putting him at a greater risk for this kind of bacterial infection. His family is now warning anyone with lowered immune systems not to get in the water, especially after a surgery or even a big cut, stating “it’s not worth your life to go [to the beach].”
This isn’t the only recent run-in with flesh-eating bacteria in the Gulf of Mexico — 20-year-old fisherman Reed Hardy was sent to the emergency room late last year, infected through just a scratch on his arm.
Hardy’s elbow started swelling after a trip to Dauphin Island, off the coast of Alabama. When he went into urgent care, doctors discovered a dangerous bacteria called mycobacterium
His mother feared he would lose the arm, given the severity of the infection. Fortunately, his arm was saved, but he suffered nerve damage and was left with a scar. He says he wasn’t even aware of the original arm scratch that got infected. “I didn’t have to have my arm amputated, I got really lucky,” he told Fox Nashville.
Mobile County health officials say a small scratch is all it takes for a flesh-eating virus to enter your body — and the bacteria acts fast. In a report with Fox Nashville, Mark Bryant, a health department
Health officials strongly advise anyone with cuts, sores, scrapes, or compromised immune systems to stay out of Gulf waters. Patients with conditions like cancer and even diabetes are far more susceptible to the life-threatening effects of a flesh-eating bacteria.
Look out for the following symptoms:
- A red or swollen area of skin that spreads quickly
- Severe pain
- Ulcers, blisters or black spots on skin
- Pus from the infected area
- Diarrhea or nausea
Flesh-eating bacteria is still rare, but incidents are increasing, especially on the East Coast. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is attributing the recent rise to increased temperatures caused by climate change.
The CDC says one in three people who contract these bacterium don’t survive — if you notice any of the symptoms listed above, get to an emergency room as soon as possible.