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New Jersey Waters Possibly Have Flesh-Eating Bacteria: Man To Lose Four Limbs After Infection

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A father may have his four limbs amputated due to flesh-eating bacteria he may have acquired in the waters off Matts Landing in Maurice River.

After crabbing off Matts Landing, 60-year-old Angel Perez began feeling a crawling pain in his lower right leg. It only took a few hours for that pain to take over his other leg and arms. Afterward, his limbs started to swell until his skin was raw and red. He then broke out with blisters until his body was covered with scarring.

The hospital said he developed Vibrio necrotizing fasciitis, a bacteria that lives in warm waters and can persist during the summer months. The bacteria can enter through even the smallest wound in the body.

Matts Landing In Maurice River

Noah Hetzell, assistant health officer at the Cumberland County Health Department, said the bacteria live practically in the water, particularly when it is warm. As for the Matt Landings, he said local officials do not have the authority to close the beach. The area remains an unregulated swimming location.

Larry Hajna, a representative for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, added the bacteria are common in waters, regardless whether the water is polluted or not.

"We can only recommend that residents avoid entering brackish waters, especially if they have are immunocompromised or have open wounds or sores on their body," Hetzell highlighted. Brackish water is the combination of fresh and seawater often found in the area where rivers meet the sea.

Indeed, Perez's daughter said another family member who swam in the area got skin rashes and painful swelling in one of her legs. Fortunately, she was given antibiotics right away. One of Perez' friends who went fishing in Matts Landing had a swelling as big as a baseball in one of his elbows.

Vibrio Necrotizing Fasciitis

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Vibriosis causes an estimated 80,000 infections and 100 deaths in the country every year. The bacteria naturally live in coastal waters and produce in great numbers between May and October. About 80 percent of reported infections occurred within this period, when water temperatures are warmer.

Vibrio species can cause a skin infection when an open wound is exposed to brackish or salt water. Most people, however, become infected after eating raw or undercooked oysters.

People with weak immune systems and those with a chronic liver disease are highly vulnerable to the infection. In most cases, people recover from the infection after about three days. However, a certain species of the bacteria may get people seriously ill to the extent of getting limbs amputated, like in the case of Perez.

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