Gulf anglers need to be mindful of dangers of vibrio vulnificus

(Photo courtesy Ronald Latapie)
(Photo courtesy Ronald Latapie)

The list of what you can catch fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is lengthy. But there’s one thing nobody ever wants to “catch”: vibrio vulnificus.

Just ask Ronnie Latapie of Pearl River. Last year, Latapie and his extended family, a party of 60, made their annual trek to Grand Isle and went fishing. Latapie loves to surf fish and he went out on a Thursday. Fishing was slow, so he skipped Friday, but Saturday morning, his leg started hurting really badly. So bad that nobody could touch it. He had to take kids’ ice pops out of the freezer and put them on it to help alleviate the pain.

A mysterious pain

Latapie had a pre-existing blood clot condition, so he thought that was what was happening, but by Sunday morning, his fever was 104. He had to be helped to the car and his wife rushed him to Slidell Memorial Hospital. He got treatment with antibiotics and other medicines and blood tests. It took five days for the tests to conclusively show what he had.

He almost lost his leg. He almost lost his life. Today, he’s still struggling to get back to normal and he wants to let others know about this terrible “flesh eating bacteria” and for those with medical conditions to avoid wading, getting finned by fish or having any direct contact with the water or fish. It’s a serious deal.

“After it happened to me, we started hearing lots of other stories,” he said. “I’m no doctor, but from what they told me, anybody with heart trouble, diabetes, liver disease, open wounds, etc., should not get in the water. As much as I love to fish, I know I’ll never wade out there again. And I’ll wear gloves and stay in the boat when I fish. I won’t go in the water unless it’s a swimming pool.”

(Photo courtesy Ronald Latapie)
(Photo courtesy Ronald Latapie)

Spreading awareness

His son, named Ronnie also, posted on Instagram about the event recently on the one-year anniversary of what happened to his dad.

“Y’all be careful fishing in the Gulf this summer,” he posted. “Last year around this time my dad got vibrio vulnificus, a flesh eating bacteria that kills 1 out of 5 people. The doctors said it probably entered through one of his old surgery scars while he was wade fishing, but there are plenty of other ways he could’ve gotten it. He already had blood clots in the same leg but when he got vibrio it made it way worse. Almost a year later and he still can’t go back to work. Be safe out there guys. Sharks and stingrays aren’t the only thing to worry about when being in the water.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers this information and more on its website:

“Some Vibrio vulnificus infections lead to necrotizing fasciitis, a severe infection in which the flesh around an open wound dies.” Some media reports call this kind of infection ‘flesh-eating bacteria,’ even though necrotizing fasciitis can be caused by more than one type of bacteria.

Anyone can get a Vibrio wound infection. But some people are more likely to get an infection and have severe complications—for example, people who have liver disease or take medicine that lowers the body’s ability to fight germs.”

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About Kinny Haddox 507 Articles
Kinny Haddox has been writing magazine and newspaper articles about the outdoors in Louisiana for 45 years. He publishes a daily website, and is a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Outdoor Legends Hall of Fame. He and his wife, DiAnne, live in West Monroe.

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