'Within 48 hours he was gone:' Tennessee man dies from flesh-eating bacteria in Gulf waters

Memphis man died from flesh-eating bacteria over the weekend after a recent beach trip.

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The victim’s family said they knew some bacteria can infect through open wounds and cuts, but they had no idea his compromised immune system may have put him at risk too.

“We never would have let my dad in the water if we would have known that he shouldn’t have been there – if it was going to be that easy for him to catch something,” said Cheryl Wiygul, the victim’s daughter.

Wiygul told WHBQ her parents were visiting Destin Beach in Florida last week.

Less than 12 hours later, Wiygul said her father started to get sick. Initially, she thought it was related to his cancer treatment.

However, when he got back to Memphis, a large black sore was on his back. Then red lumps formed on his arms and legs.

“(It was) something we hadn’t seen before, and just within a few hours of being at the hospital, he had to be in the ICU. He turned septic and went into cardiac arrest,” Wiygul said. “Just within 48 hours of him being in that water he was gone.”

According to Wiygul, her father died from bacteria that are already naturally occurring in the Gulf of Mexico, but the flesh-eating symptoms are usually very rare.

However, Wiygul said the family had no idea his compromised immune system would put him at a greater risk for infection from the bacteria.

She shared what happened to her father on Facebook, and now she wants more warnings about the possible risks posted on signs as you head into beaches and state parks.

“I don’t want to keep people from the beach. I love the beach, my dad loved the beach. That was his favorite place to go, but it’s not worth your life to go,” Wiygul said. “So, maybe you need to reschedule if you have a big cut or just had surgery, don’t go to the beach.

“At least you can go next year, like now my dad can’t go next year.”

An infectious disease specialist told WHBQ this week that these flesh-eating bacteria are very rare.

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