26-year-old Florida Man Dies from Water-Borne Bacteria

Make sure you have no open cuts before entering the water.

When I first arrived in Florida in 1975, the Internet did not exist, so people did not have as much access to information as we do today. The Centers for Disease Control had no website. And I do not recall any stories in the newspaper back then about people dying from going swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, or any other waters for that matter. I'm sure that my father -- who had been a lifeguard much of his life -- would have known about it and would not let us kids play in the Gulf all summmer long, open cuts and all.

The wisdom back then was, "Saltwater helps heal cuts and scratches and keeps them clean. Go in the water kids." 


I'm not sure what the bacterial count was back in those days, and I don't know what it is these days. But my guess is, it's higher now. Some scientists would say that it is simply that more people are in the water these days due to population increases; others would say it's the increase in reporting mechanisms such as ease of use of the Internet. I would say that while those two statements are accurate, there is also more pollution and runoff than there used to be. Every time it rains hard in whatever state, the warnings to avoide the water come flying off the electronic press. 

Whatever the reasons, the story below is a cautionary tale for those who are in or on the water on a regular basis, such as anglers who visit website of The Online Fisherman Inc.   

A Bit of Background

Health officials in Florida have reported eight cases of Vibrio vulnificus infections, including two deaths, thus far in 2015. The cases were reported across seven counties and occurred on both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. As we enter the summer months, the 2015 case count appears to be on par with past years.

In 2014, Florida reported a total of 32 Vibrio vulnificus infections, seven of which resulted in death. Vibrio vulnificus infections are not isolated to Florida; cases have been reported from all of the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports an average of 50 Vibrio vulnificus cases from the Gulf Coast Region each year, and a national average of up to 96 cases per year.

Vibrio vulnificus is a gram-negative bacterium, found in warm seawater, which affects only humans and primates. It belongs to the same family as the bacteria that cause cholera and Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Vibrio vulnificus infection can result from foodborne contamination or exposure to the bacteria in seawater by way of open wounds. The majority of cases are a result of the consumption of raw or undercooked seafood, although there have been growing reports of wound-related illness. There has been no evidence of Vibrio vulnificus being transmitted person-to-person. 

The Story of Cason Yeager

Cason Yeager enjoyed nothing more than being on the water — fishing, drinking beer and hanging out with friends and family was his idea of a good time.

That's what the 26-year-old Fruitland Park man had in mind June 14 when he headed with a large group to the Weeki Wachee area on a pontoon boat near where the Gulf of Mexico meets river waters for a day of fun and a cookout. He didn't know that a silent killer lurked in the waters as he swam and in less than 48 hours he would be dead.

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Cason Yeager was always boating and fishing up until he contracted a deadly bacteria from Florida waters that led to his death. 

"We never would have imagined in a million years that this would happen. It's my worst nightmare and I can't wake up from it," said Karen Yeager Mercer, Cason's mother. "He was so young and had so much left to do on this earth. No one should have to go through this. Ever."

Cason Yeager died after contracting vibrio vulnificus, a bacteria lurking in warmer waters that creeps into a person's system through open wounds — an unsuspecting menace that has long threatened Florida swimmers. His death is the fourth this year statewide attributed to the flesh-deteriorating menace — and it isn't the only one swimmers should be know about.

The saltwater threat has caused the deaths of more than 50 swimmers since 2010, including one last year in each of Orange and Brevard counties. But even people enjoying a day on a freshwater lake or river could be in harm's way.

Read the rest of the story below.

Cason Yeager dies from water-borne bacteria.

The Orlando Sentinel

The Online Fisherman

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