"Flesh Eating" Bacteria in Florida has Many People Concerned, a Local Woman Shares her Family's Story

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Are you going to the beach this weekend? If you have a weak immune system, you might want to stay out of the water.

The flesh eating bacteria in ocean water which has caused some controversy in Florida this week, but it's actually nothing new it’s just been more publicized recently.

Last August Skye Robinson and her family were at Saint Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach, Florida.

Her grandfather William Whitehead was along for the day trip.

"He wasn't much into getting in the water but he did get into the water for about 5 minutes up to his knees,” Robinson said.

William scratched his leg up the day before and had an open wound.

"The day after my grandmother noticed that when he woke up his leg was inflamed and really red."

The family never could have imagined what happened in the following weeks.

"He had surgery August 27th, which was on a Tuesday. The doctors said that his heel on his foot was completely gone, some ligaments left and bone was visible. That night, maybe 30 minutes to an hour after his surgery he passed away,” Robinson said.

It was after his passing, the family learned from his death certificate that he had Vibrio Vulnificus - An infectious bacterium found in warm salt water and in raw shellfish.

Those most susceptible are people with broken skin and a low immune system or people eating raw shellfish.

Symptoms can include pain and swelling where the skin is infected, flu-like symptoms, skin breakdown and ulceration - All of which Skye's grandfather had.

"I just want people to be aware of the waters changes, not to scare anybody from getting into the water but if you have an open wound or your immune system is compromised like my grandfather’s was, just be aware,” Robinson said.

"I think it’s good for the public to be educated on it and know how it occurs and why it occurs and they can make some decisions on whether or not they should go in the water or eat certain things especially if they've been sick,” Houston Co. Health Dept. Administrator Corey Kirkland said.

There are 400 cases of Vibrio Vulnificus a year in the U.S. 20% of those are fatal but it can be treated.

Also Florida has had a lot less cases of people being infected this year.
There have been 11, compared to 41 cases last year.