NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - A Memphis man died earlier this month after contracting a flesh-eating bacteria known as vibrio vulnificus after swimming in the Gulf of Mexico
The flesh-eating bacteria has been reported numerous times this year after vacationers visit coastal cities, but doctors said it’s not just in the water along the coast line. It could also be in Middle Tennessee waterways.
Dr. William Schaffner, a specialist in infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said contracting the disease is unlikely, but if you do it can be very serious.
Even though most cases of the disease have been reported from the Atlantic and Gulf coastlines, it can also be found locally.
“People who are in any way frail already or immunocompromised for any reason are much more likely to get sick much faster,” said Schaffner.
If you plan to hit the lake this weekend or are going to the Gulf of Mexico soon, you might want to think twice before jumping in.
“If you do have cut, maybe you ought to take a day off and wait for it to heal,” said Schaffner.
Open cuts or wounds are the main way skin infections can get into your body, so be sure to tend to those before getting in the water.
“It’s very serious and ugly and frightening to think about, but fortunately it’s very uncommon,” said Schaffner. “So everybody take a deep breath and enter the water this summer and have a good time.”
Symptoms of vibrio vulnificus include nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and, most importantly, pain.
If any open wound feels more painful than normal shortly after you swim, you should see a doctor immediately.