A man from Phoenix fell victim to a flesh-eating bacteria that made its way to a wound on his leg, killing him in four days. The bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, affects some 80,000 people every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Most cases happen between May and October, when ocean temperatures are warmer.
Vibriosis usually comes from eating raw or undercooked shellfish. For the majority of people who come in contact with the disease, the worst symptoms are diarrhea and vomiting. Funk was one of the extreme cases.
He and his wife, Marcia, were in Ocean City, cleaning crab pots as they prepared to return to their home in Phoenix, Maryland. Unknowingly, there were bacteria present in the water. Within hours, Funk began to feel ill, according to the Washington Post.
The infection moved quickly, eating at his leg until it was ulcerated and full of lesions in a few days.
It was “like something out of a horror movie,” Marcia told the Daily Times.
The bacteria had gotten into his bloodstream.
Doctors made the diagnosis, and Funk was flown to a shock trauma hospital in Baltimore, where doctors moved fast to amputate the affected leg. But the operation came too late, as Funk died on September 15, just four days after handling the crab pots.
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is reportedly looking into the matter, but no advisory has been issued. In 2014, state officials put out a warning during an outbreak in the Chesapeake Bay.
The bacteria naturally thrive in warm, brackish water with low salinity, where oysters and shellfish also grow. In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers suggest that global warming, which plays a big part in rising ocean temperatures, “is strongly associated with spread of vibrios, an important group of marine prokaryotes, and emergence of human diseases caused by these pathogens.”