Henry Konietzky Dies From Vibrio Vulnificus, Flesh-Eating Salt Water Bacteria, After Wading In River

09/30/2013 04:39 pm ET

A Florida man died after contracting a flesh-eating bacterial infection while wading in a river on Saturday.

Henry Konietzky, 59, succumbed to the deadly infection just 28 hours after being exposed while setting crab traps in the Halifax River in Volusia County, according to Click Orlando.

"They tried multiple antibiotics, but nothing was touching it. Nothing even fazed it," Debbie Stack, Konietzky's sister-in-law, told the station.

The infected area initially looked no more serious than a bug bite, but Stack said the lesion soon festered. Before long, the infection spread to Konietzky's kidneys. By Monday, he was gone.

Konietzky's death is the latest in a string of cases in Florida involving Vibrio vulnificus. The salt water bacteria, which are related to those that cause cholera, have already afflicted 26 people in Florida this year, causing nine deaths, according to Florida Department of Health data.

According to the CDC website, the bacterium causes abdominal pain and diarrhea in healthy people. But in individuals with compromised immune systems -- particularly people with chronic liver disease -- it can lead to a blood infection that is fatal about 50 percent of the time.

A Vibrio vulnificus infection can also result in blistering skin lesions. A 2011 Loyola University article described one case in which an afflicted man "required eight surgeries and skin grafts on his hand" and still "lost considerable portions of his left hand to amputations."

Health officials are advising people to avoid eating raw shellfish, or swimming with open wounds, which are the primary manners in which it is spread, according to WTSP.

According to The Daytona News-Journal, Konietzky's death raises additional concerns because it is the second case reported from open-wound exposure to the flesh-eating bacteria in the same section of the Halifax River.

“This is an illness that generally happens when someone eats raw oysters but that's not the case here,” Flagler Health Department Administrator Patrick Johnson told the newspaper. “Because the two most recent cases are linked to the same area, we wanted to make the public aware.”

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