|October 16, 2013|
Warnings issued about potentially deadly ocean bacteria in Florida
This photo provided by Patty Konietzky shows her husband's foot of what they thought was a bug bite on Sept. 22, 2013, in Ormond Beach, Fla. Patty and her husband, Henry "Butch" Konietzky, went crabbing in the Halifax River near Ormond Beach in September. Butch developed a sore which was later confirmed to be vibrio vulnificus. The bacteria spread quickly in his body and he died 60 hours later.
New warnings have been issued about a flesh-eating bacteria found in the ocean that already has killed 10 people in Florida.
It's called Vibrio vulnificus, a strain of bacteria that thrives in warm saltwater, and the Florida Department of Health reports 32 people have contracted the bacteria and 10 have died from the strain.
''It's quite discouraging because the beach is one of the more popular hobbies in Florida," said Tracy Brown, of West Palm Beach. Brown, who was enjoying a day at the beach with her daughter, had not really heard about the bacteria. She said she was stunned to hear someone could become sick by simply entering the water.
''The last thing you want to think about is going to the beach and leaving with something you least expect," Brown said.
Anyone with a compromised immune system or an open cut should not go into the water, Florida health department experts advise. Those who do go swimming in the ocean should wash off before heading home, authorities warned.
''It's definitely something to take serious, but there are a number of other bacteria that you could run into," said Tim O'Connor, a spokesman for the state health department.
O'Connor said the state is closely monitoring the Vibrio bacteria. So far, he said the situation is not considered severe.
The deadly bacteria can also be contracted from consuming raw seafood like oysters.
Steve Gyland, owner of Cod and Capers Fish Market in North Palm Beach, said he is all too familiar with the impact the Vibrio virus can have on someone -- he survived it.
''It was like you were on fire. Like a burn-blister from a fire. It was weeks before I could walk on that leg," Gyland said.
Gyland contracted the virus through a blister on his left foot during a scuba-diving trip to the Bahamas, he said. Had he waited to seek treatment, Gyland believes it could have been worse.
''You could just watch the red, blistery skin just grow and expand and move up your leg," Gyland said.
Gyland also sells an item at his market that the state health department warns is a leading cause of contracting the Vibrio bacteria -- raw oysters.
''If we eat raw foods, there's always a risk, absolutely there's a risk," Gyland said. He posts warnings all over his store and suggests people who are worried should buy oysters from cooler climates to the north.
The state health department said it is monitoring the situation and is telling consumers to cook their oysters before eating the shellfish.