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Nassau County man being treated for flesh-eating bacteria

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Updated: 10/03/2013 10:35 pm
NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. -- Action News has learned a man is sick from the same flesh-eating bacteria that's sickened 26 other people around Florida.

Health officials said  77-year-old George Clarke from Nassau County was infected over the weekend, after a crab pinch in Yulee.

His family told Action News they knew something was wrong when he started experiencing flu-like symptoms. They say he's in intensive care right now at Baptist Health.

Clarke's wife told her husband he better be able to celebrate their 59th wedding anniversary next week.

Steven Clarke is trying to stand strong for his family.  "It's difficult to see your father laying there dying, and you can't help him," said Steven Clarke.

Clarke was crabbing near his home Saturday when he was pinched by a crab. He came down with symptoms less than 12 hours later.

Clarke's arm was nearly black and covered by lesions. Twenty-seven people across the state have contracted the bacteria, and nine have died.

The bacteria is called vibrio vulnificus. And so far this year, it has infected 27 people around Florida. Nine of those cases have been fatal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the bacteria lives in warm seawater. It can enter the body by either eating contaminated seafood or through an open wound.

Once infected, the victim can experience symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. The bacteria also causes the skin to break down.

People with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable.

Ways to prevent infection include not eating raw oysters or shellfish and avoiding exposure to warm saltwater or brackish water, especially for people with any cuts or scratches.

Vibrio vulnificus must be treated aggressively with antibiotics.

The CDC says these types of infections are rare but also underreported. Between 1988 and 2006, 900 cases were reported in the U.S., mostly from states on the Gulf Coast.

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