ELBERTA, Ala. (WKRG) — There’s something about the water in and around Baldwin County. It draws people here from across the country. But, something in the water can kill you.
“I have heard of the flesh-eating bacteria,” said Beau Cook from his Elberta home. “Just living here, you are going to hear about it. I mean you just don’t think something like that is going to happen to you.”
But it did. After catching bait fish in Week’s Bay back in May, Cook headed to the gulf on a fishing trip. He was finned while baiting one of the rigs but didn’t think much of it. “Got home, cleaned fish, noticed my hand was a little tingly, something wasn’t right,” said Beau. “I didn’t know how I hurt it. A couple of spots came up where the dorsal fin of the croaker had poked it.”
48 hours later he was in the emergency room. The infection traveled from his hand to his arm, invading the left side of his chest. “It was bruised and blistering like black and blue, blistering and they took me to emergency surgery and that’s when they told my wife better call the kids and family we don’t think he’s going to make it over the next 12 hours,” said Cook.
The diagnosis Vibrio-Vulnificous, also known as the flesh-eating disease. “It can be fast, it can be very damaging,” said Director of Infection for South Baldwin Regional Medical Center Denise Renkenberger. “It moves quickly. It destroys skin, muscle, flesh and fat and is definitely a medical emergency.”
It is a naturally occurring bacteria, that thrive in brackish water and the warmer the water the better. “It’s definitely a risk,” said Emergency Room physician Dr. Adam Hamrick. “Anywhere that has water that I think is greater than 68 or 69 degrees Fahrenheit is at risk for vibrio.”
“I love Baldwin County but I don’t want to be in the water no more.” After 40 days in the hospital, and half a dozen surgeries Cook’s prognosis is good. “There was a lot of God and a lot of good people that kept me here.”
As much as he has loved the water and all it offers, he’s not taking any chances. “I’ll be a land-dweller the rest of my life.”
Symptoms like swelling and fever can come on within 12 hours of being infected. If caught early it can be treated with antibiotics but the longer you wait the higher the risk of hospitalization, surgery, amputation and death.