Man killed by flesh-eating bacteria after Hurricane Ian

A man who traveled to Florida from Michigan to help with hurricane repairs died Oct. 11 after contracting a flesh-eating bacterial infection found in warm saltwater, The Washington Post reported. 

James Hewitt, 56, fell out of a boat and scraped his leg while helping his friend do house and boat repairs after the hurricane. 

The next day, he was feverish and his leg was swollen. He was brought to the hospital and immediately admitted to the intensive care unit because physicians determined that he developed a form of sepsis. Mr. Hewitt died three days after his fall. 

These types of infections have been surging since Hurricane Ian, with at least 27 infections being recorded since the hurricane struck. Vibrio vulnificus, the flesh eating bacteria that led to Mr. Hewitt's death, lives in warm, brackish sea water and may cause severe illness and death. Florida has seen more than 60 vibrio infections and 13 deaths this year, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Though relatively rare and not contagious, experts expect increasing numbers of vibrio infections in Florida as aggressive natural disasters continue and bring water inland. 

"The Gulf Coast is the epicenter of disease like this," Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Houston-based Baylor College of Medicine, told The Washington Post. "You have a mix of climate change, poverty and aggressive urbanization, all contributing to the exacerbation of vibrio infections and an increase of other diseases like dengue, zika and parasitic infections."

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