Warning about deadly bacteria found in ocean water - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

Deadly bacteria in ocean water

It's become a routine -  a nurse coming to the house every day to check on Walt Hays and change out his bandages.

Hays and his brothers recently took a fishing trip - something they do about three times each year.

"I was putting some more ice on the fish and I spread it out and my finger caught the back fin of a black drum and it started bleeding," said Hays.

Along with that cut on his pinky, there was another one farther up his arm.  That night, Hays woke up with chills, nausea and vomiting - and it got worse from there.

"My hand was about twice the size it is right now," added Hays.

"It's a bacteria called vibrio vulnificus," said Dr. Michael Bolton, an infectious disease physician. "It's a bacteria we see commonly in seawater."

Even though Dr. Bolton is not treating Hays, he says Hays is among those most affected by the bacteria.

According to Dr. Bolton, 90 percent of the cases are among adults 40 and older with some kind of pre-existing medical condition and a cut for the bacteria to enter through.

"What happens a lot of the times is people have a cut, go handle the fish or get punctured in the seawater by a shellfish that already has the bacteria and that gets into the bloodstream as well," said Dr. Bolton.

The most important thing you can do is be cautious, aware and act quickly.  Hays says he had never even heard of the condition, but thanks to his wife, he made it to the hospital in time.

"They said had we not acted when we could, I could have either lost a limb or have died," said Hays.

The Centers for Disease Control says this is a very rare condition.  Statistics show over an 18-year period, just 900 cases have been reported.

Copyright 2011 America Now. All rights reserved.