A Florida man contracted a deadly flesh-eating bacteria without ever directly coming into contact with water where it typically lives, officials said.
Tyler King was at work at his water sports business in Santa Rosa last week when his left bicep began swelling, he told CBS News.
Though he took Benadryl, his left arm swelled to nearly triple its normal size within a few hours, and he rushed to the emergency room.
"If I had gone to sleep … and had woke up with it at the rate it was spreading, I might not have an arm right now," he told CBS News.
Doctors found King had contracted vibrio, a bacteria commonly found in warm, brackish water, which is a mix of salt and fresh water. Vibrio can cause a skin infection when exposed to an open wound and prove deadly if left untreated, authorities said.
Though King said he didn’t directly touch water the day he was infected, similar cases have cropped up on other beaches across the East Coast.
A Maryland woman said her son developed open wounds swimming in a bay last week, while a 77-year-old woman died after developing necrotizing fasciitis when she fell in the water and cut her leg while walking along the Gulf.
"Waters are getting warmer and the bacteria love warmer water, so we're all at higher risk," CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus said.
He cautioned beachgoers to check themselves and children for cuts and to cover any open wounds with waterproof Band-Aids before getting in the ocean. If someone does suffer a cut in the water, they should clean it with hand sanitizer immediately and monitor the wound or any signs of infection. If a person does come into contact with flesh-eating bacteria, they should treat infections with antibiotics quickly, he said.
"Once that bacteria has spread in the bloodstream to the organs, sometimes it's too hard to treat … but just pay attention. Don't be afraid of the ocean, but be aware of what's going on," Agus said.