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Florida's Flesh-Eating Ocean Bacteria: Necrotizing Fascitis

Updated on June 29, 2019

Maybe I have been lucky, maybe the cited dangers are minimal, but many beach goers in Florida have had a bad experience after going into the ocean, whether on the Gulf side or the Atlantic side.

Recent news has revealed that a flesh-eating bacteria had cost the lives of several swimmers. One is a woman on vacation to the Sunshine State who went to her favorite place, Coquina Beach, near Ellenton, Fl., near Tampa. The woman was in the warm ocean and somehow cut herself on some rocks while swimming. The cut was 3\4 inch. Not much was thought of it but it did swell up. She went to the doctor who gave her tetanus shot and some antibiotics. Her leg had turned red swollen and she had a fever. However, the doctor did not know much about this bacteria, which is uncommon. It was just the next day, family found her unconscious and rushed her to the hospital where the flesh eating bacteria was found. It was already too late by then, she died the next day after suffering two strokes and sepsis. Despite surgery to save her leg, all efforts failed.

According to CDC, 1 out of 3 people will get this bacteria and since 2010, almost 1200 cases of this bacteria have been reported.

In another recent case, a girl contracted the bacteria while swimming at Destin, Fl., a very popular resort in the panhandle of the state. The girl went swimming and after getting out had pain in her leg, then a rash, followed by a fever. Her skin deteriorated. Pompano Beach was then closed. The bacteria eventually prevented the girl from walking after several days. After seeing the doctor, diagnosis thought it had been blood clots, but her leg was swollen, red rash and fever increased. The girl's blood pressure had reached critical numbers and she was admitted to the hospital. Doctors found a pocket of the infection and took a sample and that is when the flesh-eating bacteria was diagnosed. The victim then went into septic shock and prescribed potent antibiotics. This victim survived. It was found that that the girl had entered the Florida waters with a small cut on her toe

The CDC states this deadly bacteria is on the rise due to rising ocean temps, however, the Florida oceans on either side of the state are usually between 70-85F, with the highest temps in the summer months, so this may not be the cause.

In yet another case, this one from St. Petersburg, FL., again on the Gulf side of Florida, a man contracted this bacteria, survived, but lost his foot. This happened very fast from first being exposed- just 48 hours!

Key FYI You Need to Know

  • The bacteria loves warm ocean temps
  • Do not enter the ocean with any cuts or breaks in the skin
  • Symptoms include fever, swelling, red rash, pain at site
  • Most of the reported cases have occurred on the Gulf side of Florida
  • If you suspect this bacteria, tell your doctor
  • Death or loss of limb can occur very fast- less than 48 hours due sepsis and infection spreading
  • Victims can be saved if quick action is followed


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