Flesh-eating bacteria infects two fisherman

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Flesh-eating bacteria infects two fisherman

12:24 PM CDT on Wednesday, July 21, 2004


By Shern Min Chow / 11 News


PORT O'CONNOR -- It’s the time of year when people hit the Texas coast for fun in the sun. But a fishing trip quickly turned into a nightmare for two Houston men, hospitalized in Victoria after being infected by flesh-eating bacteria.


They got it in the waters off Port O’ Connor and one of them is in critical condition.

The victims were infected during a fishing tournament in Port O'Connor.
To look at the serene water off Port O’ Conner, you'd never know it was harboring the common, warm saltwater bacteria. Vibrio Vulnificus is naturally present in marine environments but people are rarely infected.


Last weekend, Port O'Connor hosted a major fishing tournament, the “Poco Bueno.” Two friends were in the wade fishing division and both had scrapes or abrasions. That’s when the vibrio did its damage.


Doctors at Citizen’s Medical Center in Victoria. where both men are hospitalized, confirm it’s flesh-eating bacteria.


One of the men nearly lost his life to vibrio and did lose part of his leg.


“The left leg was amputated at mid-calf and the remainder of the leg has been opened up,” said Dr. Robin Adams.


Dr. Adams said the man’s infection began last Thursday, but he ignored the massive swelling, and the dark purple color of his leg until Saturday. “The man instead got engrossed in the activities of the day and basically disregarded it,” he added.


There are some 18 to 20 cases a year of vibrio along the Gulf Coast. One local fisherman told 11 News he also had a friend who was infected.


“They had to do surgery, a lot of antibiotics. They saved his leg," said Terry Spoonemore. "The doctor told him they weren’t sure they were going to save his leg or his life. He was very sick, maybe eight weeks.”


Heavy drinkers, those with compromised immune systems, and those with liver problems are at highest risk of being infected with vibrio. One study suggests, they are 80 times more likely to develop vibrio than healthy people.


“I think you have more a chance getting in car wreck that you do catching that. There were hundreds of people fishing this weekend,” said fisherman Dwayne Lowery.


For Others, like Terry Spoonemore, the vibrio scare has made them think twice about getting in the water.


“Yeah, but so did the movie Jaws and I got over that,” Spoonemore joked.


The second victim is in good condition, but the first victim remains in critical condition. His problems include kidney failure.


Doctors say seeking medical assistance sooner made all the difference for the second victim.


Vibrio most often infects people through open wounds.


You can also get it from eating contaminated seafood, so experts say always cook seafood, especially oysters.


Doctors stress to get treatment early if you think there’s a problem with a sore.
 

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