Tennessee Man Dies After Becoming Infected with Flesh-Eating Bacteria in Florida

The family of a Tennessee man, Dave Bennett, is mourning his death after he contracted a flesh-eating bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, while swimming in Okaloosa County, Florida.

“Flesh Eating Bacteria sounds like an urban legend. Let me assure you that it is not. It took my Dad’s life,” said Cheryl Bennett Wiygul in a lengthy Facebook post on Wednesday. CNN also confirmed his death. “This is so raw and personal to me that I did not want to post about it, but if I can help one person, then it is worth it.”

Wiygul said that although she took precautions — she had heard of a similar case nearby in which a 12-year-old girl contracted bacteria that turned into necrotizing fasciitis — there should be more awareness spread about such bacteria.

Vibrio is the source of about 100 deaths in the United States per year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and 80,000 illnesses on top of that.

“People with vibriosis become infected by consuming raw or undercooked seafood or exposing a wound to seawater,” the CDC states. “Most infections occur from May through October when water temperatures are warmer.”

Although Wiygul said she was “fanatical” about making sure her dad was protected, “I feel like I should have known and that is something I will live with for the rest of my life,” she wrote.

“There is not enough education out there about the bacteria in the water,” she continued. “There needs to be signs posted at every beach, every city and state park, and every bayou stating that “due to naturally occurring bacteria in the water people with open wounds or compromised immune systems should not enter”. I knew about the open wounds. Many people I’ve talked to don’t. They think saltwater is good for cuts. Saltwater alone may be, but the bacteria enters through cuts.”

Wiygul went on to explain that Bennett suffered from cancer, making him even more at risk because of a weaker immune system. However, she said that her father “has been in the water several times so it didn’t seem like a risk.”

Flesh Eating Bacteria sounds like an urban legend. Let me assure you that it is not. It took my Dad’s life. This is so…

Posted by Cheryl Bennett Wiygul on Wednesday, July 10, 2019

“We were taking precautions and we were good, so I thought,” she wrote.

Wiygul described a fun time her parents visited, which involved boating near Crab Island, beach time at Destin, swimming and riding jet skis in the bayou. But it didn’t take long for symptoms to surface.

“Daddy stayed up late Friday night and watched a movie. He was happy and talkative, seemed to feel fine as he did all week,” Wiygul wrote. “About 4:00 a.m. Saturday morning, 12 hours after we were in the water, he woke up with a fever, chills and some cramping.”

By Sunday, Wiygul’s father had died, she said.

“There were no bacteria warnings at any beach or park we went to,” Wiygul continued. “They do post advisories for high bacteria but there were none. I would never have taken my Dad in the water if there was a bacteria advisory but it would have been because I didn’t want him to get a stomach virus not because I thought it would kill him.”

“I love the water and so did my Dad,” she said. “People do need to know how to be more cautious and how to recognize symptoms. There is information out there but I didn’t find it all until it was too late. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

In a caption for a photo of Bennett, Wiygul said “There will forever be a missing piece of our family but thank God for giving him to us, for this last week we all had together and for taking him home quickly. I am super jealous of Heaven today.”

“My God I am going to miss my Daddy,” she said.

The CDC recommends staying out of both salt and brackish water (the latter is a mix of fresh and salt water) if one has opens cuts or wounds and to use waterproof bandages if there is a possibility contact could be made.

After cuts or wounds have been exposed, it is recommended to wash thoroughly with soap and water.

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