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Vibrio Vulnificus Kills Florida Man, Health Officials Issue Warning About Seawater Bacteria

Vibrio Vulnificus

Health officials are warning Florida residents about seawater bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus.

Henry "Butch" Konietzky, 59-years old died on Monday after he was exposed to the deadly bacteria in the Halifax River. He has been fishing there for more than five decades and would have never thought that would be his last time catching crabs for dinner.

Konietzky's death is just the latest in a string of cases in Florida from the Vibrio vulnificus bacteria. According to Florida Department of Health data, the salt water bacteria has already infected 26 people in Florida this year, nine of which lead to death.

According to the CDC, Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that normally lives in warm seawater and is in the same family as cholera. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. People who have compromised immune systems caused by illnesses such as liver disease or HIV/AIDS are more likely to die from the bacteria.

Flagler Health Department Administrator Patrick Johnson says, "We are advising residents to cook all seafood and avoid going into the water with open wounds." Sorensen also recommended wearing gloves and washing hands after handling raw shellfish.

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

Konietzky's daughter, Sheila said that her father did not have any visible wounds before going into the Halifax River. He also did not have any other known health problems. Konietzky first noticed lesions on his leg several hours after fishing, he went to the emergency room with his wife, Patty. But the bacteria quickly spread through Konietzky's body. He died less than 48 hours after exposure as a result of kidney failure.

"We are all still in shock. We didn't even know this type of bacteria existed. He has been in and out of that water his entire life." said Sheila Konietzky. "What's really devastating is that he fished his whole life. For something like this to take him away from us so quickly, without warning, is really scary."

Deadly Seawater Bacteria deaths on the Rise

A deadly bacteria found in warm seawater has killed two people in Volusia County and one in Flagler County.

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