Doctor: Healthy people shouldn’t worry about flesh-eating bacteria in water

There are a lot of creatures that could give some nightmares in oceans like the Gulf. And a movie like the film “Jaws” scared people for generations. But the thing scaring people this summer is flesh-eating bacteria.

More people are reporting getting the disease, and it’s scaring some people away from the shore. Doctors say the fear that has built up around flesh-eating bacteria is causing many unnecessary visits. They say people who are in good health should not worry about getting in the water.

To clear up worries, we spoke to Dr. Jason Wilson who has worked in the emergency room for Lee Health for 18 years.

”I’ve really only seen a handful of cases,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the only people who are usually prone to getting this kind of infection are people who already have significant health issues.

“Especially liver disease, more chronic rehabilitation, those on chemo therapy for cancer, long courses of steroids,” Wilson said. “I’ve honestly seen many more cases related to fear and hysteria than actual bacteria. I have not personally seen a case this year.”

This trend is making busy emergency rooms in Lee County even busier.

“I’ve had many people just want to get their skin checked with the most minor wounds,” Wilson said. “So it does lead to seemingly unnecessary ER visits.”

But if you are planning on going in the water, there are some things doctors recommend to make sure you’re extra safe.

“If you have an open wound, like a recent laceration or a puncture, you should probably avoid the salt water,” Wilson said. ”If you are a healthy person and want to take your children to the beach, don’t be afraid of it.”

A Tennessee man’s death is the most recent case of flesh-eating bacteria causing scares across Florida. And it’s the reason why some like Caylin Cheak visiting Fort Myers Beach for vacation are thinking twice about taking a swim.

”Kind of scared to go in the water,” Cheak said. “Hopefully, nothing happens”

And Doctors say getting flesh-eating bacteria infection is rare, but visitors say it’s still something scaring people.

“Severe cases, dying, that definitely concerns people when you hear about it,” visitor Cameron Shields said.

Doctors also say flesh-eating bacteria can come anywhere in the environment, not just from water exposure. If you start experiencing signs of infection, like a black or purplish discoloration, or extreme pain after swimming in the water, go see a doctor.

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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