Florida man claims he contracted flesh-eating bacteria without entering water

A microscopic image of the Vibrio bacteria commonly known referred to as “flesh-eating bacteria.”
A microscopic image of the Vibrio bacteria commonly known referred to as “flesh-eating bacteria.” CDC.gov

Entering water with an open wound is the most common way to contract flesh-eating bacteria. A Florida man took to social media to claim he was infected — without even being in the water.

Tyler ‘TK’ King posted pictures on Facebook Sunday of what he said was the result of being infected by Vibrio vulnificus bacteria. First reported by the Orlando Sun Sentinel and subsequently Fox 10 News, the pictures depict a large splotch of red skin from his elbow to his tricep. They also show him giving a thumbs up in a hospital bed. No medical experts were quoted verifying King’s illness.

King claims his only involvement with water was “a short paddle across a dune lake” in Santa Rosa Beach in Florida’s Panhandle last Friday.

“My BIGGEST reason for sharing this story is to shed some light on how I was infected,” King wrote. “As a local paddle guide and adventure enthusiast, I am always in the water. This day, or the days leading up to it, I was not.”

King said a brief trip to the emergency room confirmed the infection. Quickly seeking medical attention, he said, prevented the infection from destroying his arm’s muscle tissue. King said he escaped with only an antibiotic prescription.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates Vibrio vulnificus causes upwards of 80,000 illnesses but only 100 deaths per year. People most commonly contract the bacteria from eating undercooked shellfish.

Florida has seen a recent uptick of cases involving Vibrio infections. A 12-year-old girl underwent emergency surgery upon her return to Indiana in late June after being diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis. Her mother, Michelle Brown, wrote in a Facebook post that a scrape on the 12-year-old’s big toe left her susceptible to the bacteria during the family’s vacation to the beaches in Destin.

Additionally, a family announced Monday a 77-year-old woman had died during surgery after contracting the flesh-eating bacteria. The woman, Lynn Fleming, had been scratched while walking along Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island.