CAMERON PARISH, La. (KPLC/Gray News) – Although flesh-eating bacteria might not be the first thing you think of when you head to the beach, doctors say it’s something you must be aware.
This year, a deadly type of flesh-eating bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus is showing up earlier than in previous summers.
Dr Stephen Castleberry of West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital said he saw the bacteria appear four to six weeks earlier than in previous years. He said the infection could turn into septic shock overnight, with health workers racing to save lives and limbs.
“This infection is something that will go from a fun day at the beach to an extremely painful injury within hours,” Castleberry said.
That’s exactly what happened to Jessie Abshire, who is now recovering in intensive care after contracting the flesh-eating bacteria while crabbing in Cameron Parish, located along the Louisiana coastline.
Jessie Abshire’s wife, Belinda Abshire, said the family fished in ankle-deep water for a few hours “at most”.
“Who would have thought we went crabbing in ankle deep water and then two days later you nearly died in hospital,” Belinda Abshire said.
Belinda Abshire shares her husband’s near-death experience in the hopes that it may even save another person from suffering like him. Jessie Abshire’s family have said they are grateful for what doctors call a ‘miraculous recovery’ after fears he may die.
“[He is] slowly getting better every day,” said Jessie Abshire’s daughter, Amanda Savoie. “We have a long road ahead of us.”
Although Vibrio vulnificus can also affect the intestinal tract, doctors are most concerned about bacteria entering the skin and bloodstream through open wounds, including the smallest cuts and scrapes. Castleberry said people who are immunocompromised or have pre-existing conditions are most at risk of serious illness, but the bacteria can infect anyone.
“Any cut in the skin, even a day-old tattoo, a little cut that you might not even recognize in advance,” Castleberry said. “Anytime you’re in brackish water, gulf water, during those times of the month, it doesn’t hurt to wash up after you leave the beach. If you have a fresh wound, do not go in the water.
If an open wound is exposed to water, Castleberry recommends washing any abrasions immediately with soap and water. If the wound becomes painful, consult a doctor immediately.
“When in doubt, go see someone – fast,” Castleberry said.
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