A man in Polk County, Florida died late last month after contracting Vibrio vulnificus, more commonly known as “flesh-eating bacteria,” during a recent fishing trip. The family of Richard Corley say that the 57-year-old father of one was a devoted outdoorsman and avid angler. They believe that Corley contracted the bacteria while fishing after accidentally cutting his leg on September 27, which later became infected. The angler died three days later.
“It just spread so quickly,” the victim’s brother, Brian Corely told Fox 13. “It had actually spread from his leg, started going up to his groin, on his stomach, his back, and it was moving quickly and they had to induce him into a coma.”
Corley was fishing with friends in Estero Bay, one of his favorite haunts, when they noticed what appeared to be a bug bite on his leg. A little while later, the wound became blistered and swollen, and Corley was transported to a local hospital. Doctors there identified the condition and attempted to stop the infection, but by then it was too late. Corley’s family say they want the public to be more aware of the potentially dangerous bacteria and urge state officials to put up signs near the warm waters where the bacteria can be found.
“I’m not mad because he died. I’m hurt because he died,” Corley told the News-Press. “But I think there needs to be more awareness. They do signs for manatees and no wake zones and different stuff like that.”
Vibrio vulnificus is one of several types of bacteria that cause necrotizing fasciitis, a condition that results in the destruction of skin tissue. On the outside, it appears that the bacteria is actually eating the flesh but experts say that the condition is actually due to an infection that causes tissue death. Florida officials warm swimmers and anglers not to enter enter warm, brackish waters with cuts or open wounds. Eating raw or undercooked shellfish could also introduce the bacteria into your body.
Fortunately, the condition is rare and can be treated successfully if detected in time. The Florida Department of Health only reported 37 cases of Vibrio vulnificus this year, although 12 of those cases ended in death. Health issues such as liver problems could exacerbate tissue damage, and in severe cases could allow the bacteria to spread through the blood stream, which results in death in half of all such cases.
Brian Corley is proposing that the state health department ramp up education efforts, as well as put up signs near waters known to contain the bacteria.
“I’ve never seen a disease destroy someone so quickly and so painfully,” Corley commented to The Ledger. “People need to know about the dangers of this.”
You can watch an interview with Corley below:
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