Beach season is in full swing. Apparently, so is flesh-eating bacteria season. It seems that every other day now a new report about someone contracting the awful bacteria flashes across my computer screen. Since I’ve recently moved back to Florida, I pay closer attention to those stories than I did while living in Arlington, Virginia. The story currently terrifying me, though, means that I may never go to the beach: A Florida man contracted flesh-eating bacteria without even entering the water.
The man, Tyler King, works on Santa Rosa Beach (near where I grew up in Pensacola). While at work, King realized that his left arm was swelling. Not overly concerned about it at the time, he took some Benadryl and forgot about it. Rather, he tried to forget about it.
CBS News reports that “just a few hours later his arm had nearly tripled in size. He rushed to the emergency room.”
It’s a good thing he made the trip to the hospital because King had contracted vibrio, a type of bacteria that can result in necrotizing fasciitis if left untreated. Since the bacteria is normally found in warm, brackish water, King is puzzled as to how he contracted the potentially deadly bacteria since he didn’t enter the water.
CBS points out some sobering news:
Similar cases of infection have been popping up on beaches along the East Coast. A Maryland woman says her son is healing after he developed open wounds swimming in a bay last week. A 77-year-old woman who was walking along the Gulf died after developing necrotizing fasciitis when she fell in the water and cut her leg.
Several other people have also contracted flesh-eating bacteria this year, including a 12-year-old Indiana girl who was vacationing on the Gulf Coast, not far from where King contracted the bacteria. Early in June, the girl developed what she believed was a charley horse in her leg the day after swimming at the beach. After returning home from vacation, a doctor urged the girl’s parents to take her to the hospital. The girl is at home now, but faces a long road of therapy before she’ll be able to walk again.
If the thought of contracting a flesh-eating bacteria while on vacation at the beach frightens you, it should (to a point). While it is rare, the cases are increasing as the water warms up. Experts say the best way to protect yourself is to make sure any cuts and scrapes are covered with waterproof bandages before entering the water, avoid brackish water, and make sure that you go to the hospital as soon as any symptoms appear. Being cautious combined with the small chance of contracting the deadly bacteria should mean that you can enjoy your beach vacation worry free. You won’t see me there, though.