Man dies after being infected by flesh-eating bacteria in Florida
Learn the signs and treatment of the rare disease "necrotizing fasciitis." USA TODAY
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – A Tennessee man died this week after becoming infected by a bacteria, vibrio vulnificus, during a trip to the Florida Panhandle, his daughter said.
In a Facebook post, Cheryl Bennett Wiygul said her father became infected with the bacteria after a day of splashing around in the water off of Destin. He seemed happy and talkative, she said.
"About 4:00 a.m. Saturday morning, 12 hours after we were in the water, he woke up with a fever, chills and some cramping. ... They got to the hospital in Memphis around 8 p.m.," Wiygul said in the post. "They took him back immediately. As they were helping him get changed into his hospital gown they saw this terribly swollen black spot on his back that was not there before."
The man's condition worsened over the next several hours. His immune system had been weakened by a bout with cancer, the daughter said, and he died Sunday afternoon.
"He was gone by Sunday afternoon. Less than 48 hours after getting out of the water feeling great, the bacteria had destroyed him," Wiygul wrote.
The man's lab results showed that the he had been infected with the bacteria vibrio vulnificus, his daughter wrote. The bacteria is among those that can cause the flesh-eating phenomenon known as necrotizing fasciitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Per the CDC, vibrio vulnificus is common in coastal waters between May and October and can become a cause for concern after events such as hurricanes and tropical storms because of storm surge.
In June, a 77-year-old Florida woman was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis after cutting her leg at a Florida beach. She died, as do one in three people who contract the flesh-eating bacteria, according to the CDC. It was the second necrotizing fasciitis case that had been reported at a Florida beach within a month.
"I am absolutely not trying to scare people from the beach or swimming. I love the water and so did my Dad," Wiygul wrote. "People do need to know how to be more cautious and how to recognize symptoms. There is information out there but I didn’t find it all until it was too late."
Wiygul didn't immediately return a request for comment Friday evening.
Another Facebook post she wrote, dated Sunday, showed a picture of her father, smiling amid the green waves.
"There will forever be a missing piece of our family but thank God for giving him to us, for this last week we all had together and for taking him home quickly," the post reads. "I am super jealous of Heaven today. My God I am going to miss my Daddy."