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Flesh-eating bacteria seen in water 4-6 weeks sooner than past summers

Hackberry man recovering in ICU after contracting potentially deadly bacteria
Jessie Abshire is recovering in the ICU after contracting flesh-eating bacteria while crabbing along Louisiana’s coastline. (Source: KPLC)
Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 4:13 PM CDT
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Cameron Parish, LA (KPLC) - It’s not the first thing you think about when you head to the beach or out on a fishing trip, but doctors are saying it is something you should be aware of. Flesh-eating bacteria is presenting itself sooner than in past summers.

“This infection is something that will go from a fun day at the beach to an extremely painful wound within hours. Overnight can be sepsis, septic shock and aggressive therapy to try to do what you can to save life and tissue,” said Dr. Stephen Castleberry at West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital.

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

“Just not long in the water either. Just a couple hours we were there at the most,” said Jessie’s wife, Belinda Abshire.

Now Jessie’s wife and daughter are sharing his story in hopes it saves even one person from suffering like he has, calling it a near-death experience and saying it can happen to anybody.

“Getting better slowly each day. We got a long road ahead of us,” said Jessie’s daughter, Amanda Savoie.

“Who would have thought we had gone crabbing in ankle-deep water, then two days later, he’s dying in the hospital,” Belinda said.

This type of flesh-eating bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, can affect the intestinal tract, but Dr. Castleberry says this time of year they are most worried about skin infections.

“What we worry about is anybody who is immunocompromised, so even just diabetes, mild liver disease when patients don’t know about it, and any break in the skin, even a several-day-old tattoo, a small cut that you may not even recognize beforehand,” Dr. Castleberry said.

Dr. Castleberry says this bacteria is showing up about four to six weeks earlier than what he’s seen in past summers, and he is advising people to take extra caution if they’re headed to the beach this summer.

“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,” Dr. Castleberry said.

He recommends washing any abrasion with soap and water immediately after - if you get a scrape from the rocks or a wound from a fishing hook or net. Of course, if the wound is getting painful, seek medical care immediately.

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

Jessie’s family says they are thankful for what doctors are calling a miraculous recovery after they feared he might not make it. They say the outpouring of thoughts and prayers from the community has been a huge help in getting through this hard time.

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