Vibrio attacks man's leg

Reese Hart's ankle is red and swollen after being infected by the Vibrio bacteria after fishing in Port O'Connor on Sunday.

What seemed to be an ordinary day of fishing in Port O'Connor for Waller resident Reese Hart, 50, and his two sons turned into an unexpected trip to the hospital.

"I thought I was bulletproof and it would never happen to me, but it did," Hart said. "I'm rarely ever sick."

At 1:30 a.m. Sunday, Hart said he felt pain in his right leg and had irritation and redness around a burn scar on his ankle, he said.

At 6:30 a.m., Hart had a high fever, chills and was uncontrollably shaking.

Hart didn't think much about the irritation and redness because he assumed it was caused by his wade boots rubbing against his ankle, he said.

Then, he decided to go to the Memorial Medical Center in Port Lavaca.

Hart was hospitalized because he was showing symptoms related to the Vibrionaceae bacteria, he said.

Doctors confirmed Wednesday that Hart had the Vibrio infection, also known as Vibriosis, said Hart's wife, Susan Hart.

The bacteria entered Hart's body through a burn scar on his ankle that he thought was healed.

Reese Hart was treated with at least three antibiotics to combat the infection, Susan Hart said.

Hart said he wanted anglers to know that they should seek medical attention as soon as they think they have been infected, especially after fishing, he said.

Being in good health throughout his life, Hart did not think he would become infected.

Hart was discharged Wednesday from the hospital and is recovering well.

The Vibrio bacteria exists in warm coastal waters and infections are more common in the warmer months of the year, from May through October, said Christine Mann, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The bacteria can cause disease by eating contaminated seafood, particularly oysters, and by exposing an open wound to warm seawater, Mann said.

People who ingest vibrio, the infection can cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Wound infections can cause skin ulcers and swelling, Mann said.

The incubation period for V. vulnificus is usually about 12 to 72 hours, regardless of whether it is a wound or gastrointestinal infection, said Kyle McCauley, Victoria County Public Health Department epidemiologist.

A gastrointestinal infection is equivalent to having food poisoning unless a person has a chronic liver disease, chronic alcoholism, or a suppressed immune system, which can then progress to a life-threatening bloodstream infection, McCauley said.

There have been no confirmed cases of Vibrio in Victoria County this year, McCauley said.

Hart has been fishing his whole life and along the Gulf of Mexico coast for 30 years, he said.

Doctors told Hart he needed to stay out of the water for the next few months to let the wound heal.

"I will fish again," Hart said. "It's just slowing me down for a little bit."

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