Saltwater Bacteria Can Be Dangerous!

This article is to make my readers aware of a problem with saltwater injuries & undercooked or tainted fish.


An Ideal Scene: Fishing off the Jetties in Ocean Waters *

A Cautionary Tale

It was just another Galveston Bay fishing trip for 52 year-old Thomas J. Shurley.  Fishing alone on this July morning, he scraped his knee as he adjusted his johnboat.

What he didn’t know was that a bacterium named Vibrio vulnificus had entered his body through the scraped area.  Like most able-bodied men, Mr. Shurley ignored the abrasion and went on fishing.

A few days later, Shurley died of massive organ failure … even after losing his leg.

What Happened?

‘Vibrio vulnificus’ can be found in warm saltwater around the world.  It is one of a group of pathogens that includes cholera.

The simple answer is that these bacteria are harmless to people in good health.  The bacteria have a hard time penetrating healthy skin.

However, those with an impaired immune system need to stay aware.  As many as 30% of those who delay treatment — die!


Healthy folks exposed to V. vulnificus may notice minor redness or irritation, that quickly disappears.

Symptoms of a problem:

  • a cut or scrape reddens and becomes a rash,
  • redness & soreness increases rapidly,
  • a black or dark purple spot appears on the site of the injury.
  • symptoms of flu often start:  fever, chills and nausea.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) keeps count on these infections.  They note that not all come from a person falling, or cutting, or scraping their body.  Some of these infections come from eating undercooked or tainted seafood!

The Good News

However, incidence is low.  CDC reports that 549 Americans contracted the disease in 2007.

They encourage anglers to be cautious while fishing in coastal areas.  If you experience a cut, scrape or skin-breaking injury, watch the area.  If it turns into a rash-type injury that stays red, head to a doctor or hospital.

The Bad News

Two Houston men suffered serious consequences in 2004.  The younger man lost the skin & flesh between his knee and foot because of the bacteria.

His companion, who waited another day for treatment lost both legs and had kidney failure.  What happened?  He fell on the dock near Port O’Connor!


No one is suggesting that you give up fishing in saltwater.  However, watch skin cuts or scrapes and get help when needed!


‘Ocean Angler’ Shown by Permission of ClearVue Graphics!


This blog is a companion to my website:




Published in: on January 25, 2011 at 1:33 am  Comments (1)  
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