Post Warning Signs at Beaches for those at risk of contracting Flesh Eating Bacteria

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My Dad was a kind, fun, genuine, loving father, husband, grandfather, brother and friend.  He spent the last week of his life in the Florida panhandle with his family doing all sorts of water activities. For all intents and purposes he was was an active, healthy person, but he had a compromised immune system due to a very long cancer battle that he had been winning. After swimming in brackish (salt and freshwater mixed) water at a Florida State Park, he contracted Vibrio Vulnificus bacteria. This bacteria turns into flesh eating bacteria once in a host, also known as necrotizing fasciitis. My Dad’s compromised immune system could not fight off this bacteria. He became septic and put in ICU with his organs shutting down. He died less than 48 hours after getting out of the water. This exact thing happened to many others.

Another loved Grandmother, Mom and Friend, Carolyn “Lynn” Fleming, lost her life to flesh eating bacteria this summer. Lynn was 77 years old, full of life and lived in Ellenton, Florida. She got a small cut on her shin while swimming at Coquina Beach on June 14th. She received first aid at the beach but no warning from signs or warning from the lifeguard. The picture of Lynn is from later that same evening. On June 16th the small cut seemed to be infected, so she went to an urgent care and was given a tetanus shot and an antibiotic prescription that was sent to a pharmacy that was closed. Her friends got it filled on Monday the 17th and took it to her where they found her on the floor. She was rushed to Manatee Hospital for an 8 hour surgery and later transferred to Blake where she remained on life support. Two surgeries later the infection took over and she passed away on June 27th. Lynn’s son says “People need to know including better training for lifeguards and first responders. If we would have known she would be on the survivors list.”

Some healthy people have been lucky enough to catch it in time, but not without a great deal of suffering, surgeries, and sometimes amputations. Immune compromised individuals and healthy people with open wounds should not be in warm salt or brackish water. The lack of knowledge and awareness slows down medical care for those that do have the potential to survive.

This bacteria is naturally occurring and is prolific in the southeast and moving up the eastern seaboard. People at risk do not know the risk they are taking entering the water. A simple warning sign at public beach areas, coastal and inter-coastal waterways could be life saving. We have signs for rip tides, explaining the flag system, for sea turtles, for sand dunes and for sharks. A sign is in the best interest of public health is necessary. There are signs regarding whether there is or is not a bacteria advisory, but these advisories do not test for vibrio bacteria because it is naturally occurring and not caused by pollution. Flesh eating bacteria is constantly referred to as “rare” but the 100 people that die from it or the 80,000 that contract it annually do not feel it is rare. The immune compromised and those with breaks in the skin need to know the risk they are taking before getting in the water.

An immune compromised person is 80 times more likely to be infected and 200 times more likely to die.

I believe a sign like this would stop someone with an autoimmune disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. from entering the water and risking their life and would stop a person with an open wound from possibly getting infected.

Example sign:

“Swimming is not advised for individuals with comprised immune systems or individuals with open wounds due to health risks posed by naturally occurring marine bacteria.”

Healthy people are fine to swim and should not be scared of the beach and the water! A warning like this would not effect tourism. The panic of hearing stories and not understanding is what effects it. If there were warning signs and less people at risk becoming infected there would be less stories and less reason for panic.

Please give my Dad and the many others who have suffered and died from the dreadful complications of this natural marine bacteria, a purpose and help save lives by signing and passing this on. Thank you!!

I am starting with Florida because that is where I live, where my Dad contracted and where the most cases have been reported.

https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/vibriovulnificus.html