Main Menu
Join Undercurrent on Facebook

The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975 | |
For Divers since 1975
The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
"Best of the Web: scuba tips no other
source dares to publish" -- Forbes
August 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 45, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
What's this?

Flesh-Eating Bacteria Strikes in Florida

from the August, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water in Florida . . .

Last year, it was the red tide; this year, it's necrotizing fasciitis, a skin infection caused by rare bacteria that enters the body through a break in the skin and aggressively attacks muscles and other organs. At least four people who entered the water at beaches along the Gulf Coast in June and July have suffered from it, two of them fatally.

Kylei Brown, a 12-year-old from Indiana, contracted the flesh-eating disease in the calf on her right leg after wading around in the Gulf of Destin. Barry Briggs from Waynesville, OH, nearly lost his foot to the infection while on vacation in Tampa Bay.

But they're luckier than a cancer patient from Memphis who, 12 hours after getting into the water in Okaloosa County, woke up with fever and chills, and died less than two days after leaving the water. Another fatality was Lynn Flemming, 77, who became infected after entering the water at a beach in Manatee County. He daughter wrote in a Facebook post that Flemming's entire body became septic and she died a week later. (A 56-year-old man also died from it four days after swimming at Magnolia Beach in Texas).

Vibrio bacteria are one group that can cause this infection; one type called Vibrio vulnificus is particularly dangerous. The bacterium lives in high salinity, brackish waters with surface temperatures in excess of 55 degrees, and is usually contracted when an open wound comes into contact with coastal saltwater. Necrotizing fasciitis can quickly develop soon after, and if not treated promptly with antibiotics, the infection can become fatal. People with open wounds and compromised immune systems are particularly at risk.

Katherine Doktor, an infectious disease specialist at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, NJ, recently co-authored a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine about the increased incidence of necrotizing fascitis, and says increasingly warm waters in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay and along the Gulf Coast are spiking cases of severe incidents related to bacterial infections. Warning flags were raised in 2017 with three cases, then two more in 2018 they saw two more. Before that, Doktor's team had only seen one case since 2010.

Mark Maddox at Scubavice Dive Center in Fort Myers told Undercurrent, "We have heard [about this], though only from some of the news outlets, with no explanation of where or how people are getting the bacterium. At the moment, none of our customers seem concerned."

The Florida Department of Health said state beaches are open and safe, but people should "use caution when entering an open body of water" and "if you have breaks in the skin, such as cuts or sores, avoid getting in the water."

We suggest that while diving along the Gulf Coast, you take care to protect your epidermis by covering up with a full-length wetsuit and boots, especially if you have any cuts or abrasions where infection could get in.

I want to get all the stories! Tell me how I can become an Undercurrent Online Member and get online access to all the articles of Undercurrent as well as thousands of first hand reports on dive operations world-wide

Find in  

| Home | Online Members Area | My Account | Login | Join |
| Travel Index | Dive Resort & Liveaboard Reviews | Featured Reports | Recent Issues | Back Issues |
| Dive Gear Index | Health/Safety Index | Environment & Misc. Index | Seasonal Planner | Blogs | Free Articles | Book Picks | News |
| Special Offers | RSS | FAQ | About Us | Contact Us | Links |

Copyright © 1996-2024 Undercurrent (
3020 Bridgeway, Ste 102, Sausalito, Ca 94965
All rights reserved.