By Amber Southard
ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. (WEAR/CNN) - A flesh-eating bacteria that thrives in warm coastal waters has killed nine people in Florida this year, and infected another 27.
Health officials have issued an alert to stay out of the water if you have open wounds and avoid eating raw oysters.
Last Monday, Alan Little and Duane Reynolds decided to come out here to the sound and fish what happened later was unexpected. Both Allen and Duane had open wounds on their legs, making them susceptible to the flesh eating bacteria vibrio vulnificus.
"By Wednesday afternoon after the fishing trip his leg had swollen up and he had caught a waterborne bacteria that I understand is in the water all the time and by Friday night it had gotten into his blood stream and he had passed away," said Alan.
The bacteria has been around for years and mainly contracted when raw oysters are consumed. But recently people with open wounds who go into warm, brackish, or salt water are now contracting the bacteria.
Doctors say do not eat raw oysters and avoid the water if you have any wounds.
"Do not go into the water if you have an open wound or if you get a wound while in the water you need to come out of the water and have it cleaned appropriately," said Dr. John Lanza with the Escambia County Health Department.
If exposed, the bacteria could find its way into your blood stream. If the infection is caught in time, antibiotics can treat it. But if you have a compromised immune system, it can be deadly.
"Typically what happens is it goes to the kidneys and you have kidney failure, liver failure, organ failure and you can die from that," said Dr. Lanza.
Alan immediately sought medical attention and is on antibiotics and says he's bacteria-free. He says he won't be fishing anymore this year and hopes others will be aware of what could be lurking in our waters.
"If you've got any cuts or scratches or your immune system is depleted for any reason you don't need to be in the water," said Alan.
Why the bacteria is showing up frequently now? Dr. Lanza says he can't answer that.
If you believe you've might have come in contact with this bacteria, you're asked to contact your physician.