Danger at the Beach

“Flesh-eating disease” sounds like something from a gory horror movie. But it’s very real . . . and uncomfortably close to home!

What is Flesh-Eating Disease?

Also known as necrotizing fasciitis, flesh-eating disease is a dangerous, potentially fatal bacterial infection that destroys tissues underneath the skin. The usual culprit is a bacterium called vibrio vulnificus. It is naturally lives in saltwater environments, like oceans.

When someone goes in the water with an open wound, like a cut, insect bite, or even a healing tattoo, vibrio vulnificus can enter the skin. Once inside the body, the bacterium attacks muscles and tissues, leading to tissue death (necrosis). The bacterium leads to grotesque discoloration and tissue loss, giving the appearance of the skin being literally eaten away.

If left untreated, it can lead to sepsis, organ failure, or the need for amputation. The damage and complications can be fatal, especially for people with underlying illnesses or compromised immune systems.

While scary, flesh-eating disease is very rare. There are fewer than 25,000 cases per year, according to the Mayo Clinic. Additionally, when promptly diagnosed, it can be effectively treated with antibiotics or surgical removal of the infected tissue.

Cases in Florida

However, Florida has seen an uptick in incidents of flesh-eating disease this summer. In Port Charlotte, a woman lost part of her foot after contracting necrotizing fasciitis. Another developed symptoms after a day at the beach on Anna Maria Island. In both these cases, both women are recovering. A third woman, died from organ failure after she scrapped her shin while visiting a beach in Bradenton.

All in all, there have been five cases in Florida this summer. Warmer waters, which allow the bacteria to flourish, are likely to blame. This means that as the temperatures continues to heat up, we could see more incidents.

With so many cases of flesh-eating disease occurring on Florida’s beaches, you might be wondering what happens if you contract a dangerous disease. Even if the bacterium occurs naturally, can you still hold someone liable?

Beach Liability

Generally, public beaches are not liable for a patron’s injuries, whether it’s from a lighting strike, marine animal, or bacteria in the water. This is because injuries are often unforeseeable, meaning they occur suddenly and cannot be easily prevented.

Similarly, disputes over who owns of oversees the property can make beach liability cases difficult. For example, the owner of a beachfront hotel does not necessarily have a duty to warn patrons about dangerous ocean conditions, since they do not own the beach. But on the other hand, if the hotel has fenced off a part of the beach specifically for hotel patrons, then they might have a duty to warn of dangerous conditions, since they are claiming ownership of that portion of the beach.

If you’re heading to the beach this summer, flesh-eating disease is something to be aware of, along with rip currents, lightning, and other beachy dangers. Always put your safety first when visiting the beach. Stay alert and aware to avoid any injuries.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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