Flesh-eating bacteria infects Florida man fishing off coast in Gulf of Mexico

TAMPA, Fla. -- A Florida man has been hospitalized after contracting a life-threatening flesh-eating bacteria while fishing out in the Gulf of Mexico.

ABC affiliate WFTS reports Mike Walton is being treated at Tampa General Hospital for flesh-eating disease, necrotizing fasciitis, a bacterial infection that's extremely rare in the United States.

Walton said he was fishing on Saturday about 20 miles off the coast of Palm Harbor when he was stuck by a fish hook. Walton says it was a small prick, and it's something that's happened hundreds of times while fishing.

Saturday, Walton went to a nearby hospital where he received antibiotics after his hand began swelling. By Easter morning, his hand grew black bubbles.

"I had like little blisters starting to form on my hand and you could watch like sweat beads coming up on side of the hand, and then they just turned black," he said.

Walton was rushed to Tampa General Hospital and placed in the burn unit where the infectious disease doctors could treat him.

He said doctors told him he's lucky to be alive, and lucky to have his arm.

"When you look down and you can see your own tendons, back of your hand and your bone going up your arm," said Walton, "that makes it real."

Doctors at one point, had to consider possibly amputating his arm, but they were able to get inside his arm and remove the bacteria from his tissues.

"They sliced all the way down my arm, to relieve the pressure, and then I got a skin graft going from my elbow to the palm of my hand," he said.

The Ozona native received a skin graft on the top of his hand, and up his left arm where his skin had been infected and was deteriorating. Walton depends on his hands as he works in construction.
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