Florida beach bacteria victim wants state to do more to warn public

Vibrio vulnificus is a naturally occurring saltwater bacteria. File photo
File beach photo

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – A deadly saltwater bacteria has now claimed the lives of 11 people in Florida so far this year. There have been 32 cases, resulting in amputations and other debilitating consequences.

8 On Your Side has tried for months to get answers from state health officials as to why they won’t do more to warn the public and post signs so people know if they are at risk. Anyone with an auto-immune disease or even a small cut, such as a shaving nick, should stay out of the water and not eat raw shellfish.

The bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, is rare, considering the amount of beach goers in Florida. However, those who contract Vibrio have a 50 percent risk of dying.

Another victim has turned to 8 On Your Side, seeking help spreading the word.

Joe Geisel says he contracted Vibrio after a night fishing trip more than a year ago. The bacteria invaded through a cut on his leg and nick from a fish on his hand. Within hours after the fishing trip , he was in the hospital.

“Doctors said if I had waited two hours I would have lost my leg,” Geisel said.

Geisel is shocked the state won’t do more to warn people.

“They warn of other things,” he said. “Why not this? Many people I know have still never heard of this.

Doctors warn that anyone with a cut or scratch or a weakened immune system should avoid saltwater and not eat raw shellfish.
Environmental activist Erin Brockovich recently posted an 8 On Your Side story about the bacteria on her Facebook page. She is now also questioning why the state won’t post a sign so those at risk can make an informed decision.

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