ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (FOX 13) - The second case of flesh-eating bacteria has been reported out of the Bay Area, this time in a man who visited from Ohio last month. Doctors were able to save the man's foot following his spring break trip to Pinellas County.
Barry Briggs likely contracted the bacteria when he and his son were in the water off of Weedon Island on March 23. That night, Briggs' foot began to swell.
Less than 48 hours later, after traveling home, Briggs was in the hospital undergoing emergency surgery. He'll never forget what the surgeon told him before he went under the knife.
"'I really hope I don't have to take your foot.' So that was when it all slammed into place, brought it home to me," Briggs said. "Even though my wife had started telling me some of the things that can go wrong that's when it really seared it into my brain."
Doctors saved his foot and potentially his life.
"Everything I think went right. I feel very fortunate that we had all those pieces in place," he said.
This is the second flesh-eating bacteria case in the Bay Area in less than a month. Not long after Briggs contracted his infection, Mike Walton ended up with one in his hand after cutting himself with a fishing hook.
Both cases happened off the coast of Pinellas County.
“They said in a few hours this would have gone up my arm into my chest and I wouldn’t have been here," Walton told FOX 13.
Dr. Jeremy Kirtz, an E.R. physician with AdventHealth in Tampa, said these cases are rare but even the smallest open wound can become a serious problem if it becomes infected.
"Any break in the skin can cause it, even something like athlete's foot, chronic wounds in the skin because the skin is what protects you from the outside world," Kirtz said. "It can be deadly, absolutely. You need to show in the hospital. You're going to need surgery to save that limb and, if it spreads, to save your life."
Kirtz said people who are diabetic have a higher risk of coming down with a flesh-eating bacterial infection. He also said these cases are rare. He's treated roughly four in his 13 years as an E.R. physician.
These cases are important reminders to make sure cuts are healed before getting into the water, especially during the warmer months. Kirtz said it's important to get to the hospital quickly if an open wound appears infected and its condition worsens.