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Man fighting for life in ICU after contracting flesh-eating bacteria on Gulf coast

Jessie Abshire is recovering in the ICU after contracting flesh-eating bacteria while crabbing along Louisiana’s coastline. (Source: KPLC)
Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 12:05 PM AKDT
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CAMERON PARISH, La. (KPLC/Gray News) – While flesh-eating bacteria might not be the first thing on your mind when you head to the beach, doctors say it’s something you should be aware of.

This year, a deadly type of flesh-eating bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus is showing up sooner than in past summers.

Dr. Stephen Castleberry at West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital said he is seeing the bacteria show up four to six weeks earlier than in years’ past. He said the infection can turn into septic shock overnight, with health care workers rushing to save lives and limbs.

“This infection is something that will go from a fun day at the beach to an extremely painful wound within hours,” Castleberry said.

That’s exactly what happened to Jessie Abshire, who is now recovering in the ICU after contracting the flesh-eating bacteria while crabbing in Cameron Parish, located along Louisiana’s coastline.

Jessie Abshire’s wife, Belinda Abshire, said the family was crabbing in ankle-deep water for just a few hours “at most.”

“Who would have thought we had gone crabbing in ankle-deep water, and then two days later, you almost die in the hospital,” Belinda Abshire said.

Belinda Abshire is sharing her husband’s near-death experience in hopes it saves even one other person from suffering like he has. Jessie Abshire’s family said they are thankful for what doctors are calling a “miraculous recovery” after they feared he would die.

“[He is] getting better slowly each day,” said Jessie Abshire’s daughter, Amanda Savoie. “We’ve got a long road ahead of us.”

While Vibrio vulnificus can also affect the intestinal tract, doctors worry most about the bacteria entering the skin and bloodstream through open wounds, including the smallest of cuts and scrapes. Castleberry said people who are immunocompromised or have any preexisting conditions are the most at-risk for serious illness, but the bacteria can infect anyone.

“Any break in the skin, even a several-day-old tattoo, a small cut that you may not even recognize beforehand,” Castleberry said. “Anytime you’re in brackish water, gulf water, during these times of the month, it doesn’t hurt to wash off after you leave the beach. If you have any type of fresh wound, don’t go in the water.”

If an open wound is exposed to the water, Castleberry recommends washing any abrasion with soap and water immediately. If the wound becomes painful, seek medical care immediately.

“When in doubt, go see somebody – quick,” Castleberry said.

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