Bacteria from lagoon infects two Brevard County men

By Justin Warmoth - Anchor

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - Two Brevard County fisherman are the latest victims of a potentially deadly bacteria. It's called Vibrio vulnificus and it lives in shallow, brackish seawater.

Officials say there have been 27 reported infections this year caused by the bacteria, taking the lives of nine Floridians. Henry Konietzky, who was crabbing along the banks of the Halifax River near Ormond Beach a few weeks ago, was the latest victim to die from the flesh-eating bacteria.

"Every year we have one or two cases. There are serious ones, but mostly they survive," said Brevard County's Health Director Heidar Heshmati.

Heshmati says that Brevard has had 32 cases of Vibrio vulnificus infections since 1993. The most recent victims being a 74-year-old man from Melbourne and 62-year-old man from Rockledge.

According to Heshmati, the two men have since recovered from the bacterial infection, which got in their system through an open wound. He says Vibrio vulnificus is most dangerous when someone eats raw seafood that is contaminated by the bacteria.

Heshmati said, "It's very painful, muscle pain, the blood pressure goes down, high fever. It's very serious. They might not survive more than one or two days."

Heshmati says chances of the bacteria infecting someone increases if that person has an impaired immune system, like a liver infection or cancer.

Joe Hite fishes the Indian River Lagoon fairly often, but now has a whole new philosophy.

"If a fish takes my pole, he can have it," said Hite.

Although the bacteria lives in saltwater, too much salt will kill it. That's why most infections happen in rivers, rather than the ocean.

According to Heshmati, it doesn't matter if the water is moving or still, and once the water temperature drops, the bacteria will go away.

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