Michigan man dies after contracting flesh-eating bacterium from Hurricane Ian flood waters

NAPLES, Fla. – A Michigan man from Ottawa County has passed away after contracting a flesh-eating bacterium when encountering flood waters from Hurricane Ian.

Jim Hewitt, a 56-year-old man from Jenison, fell into a canal in Florida while assisting his friend clean up damage from Hurricane Ian. Hewitt had cut his leg and contracted Vibrio Vulnificus, a type of flesh-eating bacteria.

Vibrio Vulnificus can be found in seawater that is warmer than 55 degrees. A risk that is not well communicated with relief volunteers.

“I think the one thing that frustrated us the most was, you know, the locals knew about this,” said Leah DeLano, Jim Hewitt’s fiancé. “They knew about the stuff that happens after hurricanes and they knew that it’s in the murky water, and they knew about this, but the people that are going to come down and help in the hurricane are probably not from that area. So, I think there should be a better way to communicate that to the people that are helping”.

After falling into the canal and receiving the cut, Hewitt was unaware that the cut was severe. He cleaned the area and applied antibiotic ointment.

Over the next few days, Jim was in immense pain, feverish and swelling occurred in his leg. He would be rushed to the ICU, where the doctors would only be able to keep him alive long enough to say their goodbyes.

Only three days between Hewitt falling into the murky canal and his passing.

According to the Florida Department of Health, they did issue a warning to residents in the area that flood waters could contain diseases like Vibrio Vulnificus. At the end of October, they had 66 confirmed cases and 13 deaths.

For those that would like to donate to Hewitt’s family, click here.

Below are the signs of Vibrio Vulnificus according to the CDC:

  • Watery diarrhea, often accompanied by stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, and fever
  • For bloodstream infection: fever, chills, dangerously low blood pressure, and blistering skin lesions
  • For wound infection, which may spread to the rest of the body: fever, redness, pain, swelling, warmth, discoloration, and discharge (leaking fluids).

Below is a video from the Florida Department of Health about the illness:

More: Metro Detroiter collecting donations, heading to Florida to help Hurricane Ian victims

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