Michael Funk worked as a crab pot cleaner in Maryland’s Ocean City. On September 11th, he was up and about, doing his job. Four days later, he was pronounced dead due to an aggressive flesh-eating bacteria infection.
The Vibrio vulnificus bacteria is usually found in low salinity warm waters. The bacteria flourishes in environments rich in shellfish and oysters, so raw or undercooked seafood is the perfect medium of contracting the disease.
Another way of getting infected is by entering the waters with an open wound, which in Funk’s line of work is not an impossible task. The man did not mind the cut on his leg when he entered the waters of Assawoman Bay, and the bacteria was able to enter the wound, rapidly spreading throughout the body.
After contracting the flesh-eating bacteria, Funk started to feel ill in just a few hours. The infection spread more rapidly than the doctors expected. In just a couple of days, he was covered in ulcerations, his wife describing his appearance as “being pulled out of a horror movie.”
A team of surgeons struggled to remove the infected portions of skin, but their efforts were in vain. Not even leg amputation managed to save the man from the condition as the bacteria was already traveling through his blood.
His wife declared that the man experienced tremendous amounts of pain while he was being treated. He finally gave his last breath on September 15th, just four days after the ordeal started.
Specialists advise people who live in the vicinity of salt or brackish water to avoid contact if they have any open wounds on their body. Moreover, doctors are urging people to eat only cooked shellfish, as the delicatessens can be carriers of multiple life-threatening diseases.
Vibrio vulnificus does not alter the aspect, odor, or taste of shellfish, so there is no way of telling that an oyster is infected without getting it tested.
In the case of infection via ingestion, patients experience symptoms like explosive diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting.
When the bacteria enters through an open wound, the victim’s skin starts necrotizing in a couple of hours, the only chance of survival being given by amputation of the affected limb before the Vibrio vulnificus gets into the bloodstream.
Image source: Wikipedia