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July 22, 2004, 6:42AM
Fishermen infected with dangerous bacteria

Associated Press

VICTORIA - Two men from Houston have been hospitalized in Victoria after contracting a bacterial infection while wade-fishing in a Port O'Connor bay.

Both men, whose names were not released, had open wounds through which the Vibro vulnificus bacteria entered their bodies while they fished late last week, the Victoria Advocate reported in its Thursday editions. The men had been fishing a few yards apart.

One man was in critical condition and had to have his foot amputated. The other was listed as stable at Citizens Medical Center.

Dr. Dean McDaniel, chief of surgery, described the bacteria as "a very deadly skin infection associated with our warm bays when exposed to an open wound." The infection is not contagious.

McDaniel said the disease is rare and usually can be prevented.

"For the most part, people should be comfortable," he said. "But they should not be entering waters when they have a wound or cut."

Niell Irving, area manager for the state General Land Office, said a meeting is planned Thursday to discuss the case.

"That there are two cases at one time, that's what bothers me," he told the newspaper.

"Every year from Texas to Louisiana to Alabama to Florida to Georgia, any state that has a coastline on the Gulf of Mexico, this happens," said Dr. Brian Burns. "I don't think this should affect anyone's decision whether or not to go into the water in Port O'Connor or Miami or anywhere else. This particular bacteria lives in every temperate body in the world."

Burns, a plastic surgeon who treated the man who lost his foot, said it was rare to have two people infected during the same time.

"I think, in my opinion, it's just a really high statistical coincidence that two people got infected in the same day," he said. "I don't think this is a whole lot different than two people that live in Goliad happen to get snake bit in the same day, in the same zip code."

Hospital spokeswoman Melissa Purl said one man waited a day longer for treatment than the other. "Both had a lot of swelling on their legs," said Purl. "The difference in 24 hours with this particular bacteria is life-saving. One is in critical and one is in good condition."

This is from the Houston Chronicle.
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