BRADENTON (FOX 13) -
Sarasota County Health Department officials put out a health alert Wednesday about a flesh-eating bacteria that contributed to the death of a 52-year-old man.
The bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, is mostly found in warm coastal waters and can enter the body through an open wound.
That's what happened to 13-year-old Jake Ahlers of Manatee County. He got treated quickly, and survived.
But a 52-year-old who was infected in the Gulf of Mexico in Sarasota wasn't so lucky, and passed away last week.
"That individual did have an underlying medical condition making them or susceptible to severe illness, and unfortunately they passed away from that," said Michael Drennon, an epidemiologist with the Sarasota County Health Department, adding they're not sure exactly where in the Gulf the patient was. "Unfortunately, we weren't able to talk to the person before they passed away so we don't really know where they were exposed."
A 72-year-old man from Sarasota survived after he contracted the bacteria through an open wound in the Gulf earlier this month.
Sarasota County health officials reported both cases to the public following a call from FOX 13.
"Both those situations don't seem that surprising. We know they can occur. That event occurring doesn't make anyone else at risk," Drennon said.
"It's definitely going to make us think twice before we get in any water with an open wound now." -- Donna Ahlers, mother of teen who contracted vibrio vulnificus.
Thirteen-year-old Jake Ahlers from Bradenton is recovering from a vibrio infection he contracted while he was fishing for scallops in Homosassa.
"All I knew when it happened was, it was just a splinter," Jake said.
But by the next day, his foot was red and swollen and both he and his mother, Donna Ahlers, were concerned.
"It looked pretty serious," Donna said. "I didn't think it was anything like what he actually has. I just thought it was an infection from maybe the dock being dirty."
The Ahlers found out Tuesday that Jake was infected with the potentially-deadly bacteria.
"It was pretty nerve-wracking, knowing that some flesh-eating disease was in my body," Jake said. "I was pretty worried and then when I found out what it was, I was really scared."
Jake is now on his third round of antibiotics in 10 days, but he's getting better.
"I'm feeling a lot better than when it first happened. When it first happened it was really bad pain, I couldn't walk on it," he said. "I'm really thankful because I could have lost a limb, or my life."
"Luckily Jake is a healthy kid, doesn't have a compromised immune system, so I think he's lucky, plus we caught it quickly," his mother said. "It's definitely going to make us think twice before we get in any water with an open wound now."
People can also be infected by Vibrio vulnificus through uncooked seafood, like raw oysters. Symptoms would be similar to food poisoning and show up about a week later.There were 41 cases in Florida in 2013, 11 of which were fatal. So far this year there have been 11 cases, including one in Hillsborough County, and at least two deaths.