Man gets rare, flesh-eating bacteria from ocean in Virginia Beach

Charles Ballard Sr. and Jr. (Source: Family photo)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP/WAVY) — A Richmond man has been recovering after contracting a rare, flesh-eating bacteria from the ocean in Virginia Beach.

WWBT-TV reports Charles Ballard Sr. was wading in the water while fishing with his son June 11 when he got tiny cuts on his feet from stepping on jagged rocks.

Three days later, Ballard noticed those cuts became open sores. He went to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with vibrio vulnificus, a potentially fatal flesh-eating bacteria.

WISH-TV’s sister station WAVY spoke to Virginia Beach Health Dept. acting Environmental Health Manager Brad Delashmutt about this case. He said vibrio vulnificus is naturally occurring in the ocean and in brackish water. He said since it is naturally occurring, they do not shut down beaches when it is detected.

Delashmutt said infection is very rare, but people with compromised immune systems have a greater risk.

Dr. Gonzalo Bearman, chair of the Division of Infectious Diseases at VCU Medical Center, says they only see about one or two vibrio cases a year.

To reduce the risk, the health department recommends you do not swim in any natural body of water if you have cuts or open wounds. If you do, and notice your cuts or wounds becoming red or inflamed (signs of infection), call your doctor right away, Delashmutt advises.

Ballard has been undergoing hydrotherapy to treat his wounds.

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