Gemma Fischer
Gemma Fischer
July 14, 2024 ·  4 min read

Flesh-Eating Bacteria Infects Florida Man Fishing Off the Coast Of Palm Harbor in the Gulf of Mexico

Fishermen get pricked by hooks, rod tips, and other sharp points all the time. Anyone who’s taken fishing for a hobby or a career must be ready to receive a few pokes now and then. However, no one ever assumes they’d be infected by flesh-eating bacteria.

Mike Walton, a construction worker from Florida who needs his hands to make a living, didn’t know his right hand and his life would be at stake the weekend he went fishing at the Gulf of Mexico.

Speaking to ABC Action News, he’d thought nothing of the small prick he got from his hook while he was fishing 20 miles off the coast of Palm Harbor [1].

Later on, when he started to experience severe pain and swelling in his hand, he got a prescription for some antibiotics. Unfortunately, it was already too late. By the following day, the infection was in full force.

All I could think of was getting to the hospital,” he said. “Something was definitely wrong. It was the pain mostly but 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 from blood coming up against the side of it. It started coming up my arm, so the nurses at Country Side in the East were the ones who pushed me into the surgery thing. Thank God.”

Diagnosis and treatment

The doctors at the Tampa General Hospital burn unit diagnosed him with necrotizing fasciitis (NF), a very rare flesh-eating bacteria. The infection had spread all the way to his elbow, and the doctors had considered amputating his arm. Thankfully, they were able to remove the necrotic tissue and save his life.

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

For the next month, he will be placed on a heavy antibiotic treatment to prevent further infection from entering his massive wound until it’s completely healed.

The Ozona Fish Camp got wind of Walton’s predicament and they’ve decided to raise some funds to aid his recovery. They’re organizing The Ozona Classic Fishing Tournament on June 8, with the intention of giving some of the proceeds generated to Walton.

Well-wishers can donate here to support Walton’s recovery:

Ozona Fish Camp
286 Shore Drive
Palm Harbor, FL 34683

More on necrotizing fasciitis

This disease is caused by Group A Streptococcus (GAS) bacteria, the causative agent of strep throat infection [2]. However, certain strains of Staphylococcus aureus have also been associated with this disease [3]. The organisms will very quickly destroy the skin, fat, and tissue above the muscles (muscle fascia and subcutaneous tissues), causing a rotting effect and extreme pain. They are called “flesh-eating” bacteria. The infection spreads massively and aggressively and can be contracted from cuts, insect bites and abrasions, no matter how tiny or small they are.

NF affects about 1 out of every 300,000 people in the United States every year. In some part of the world, it has been recorded to affect 1 out of every 100,000 people annually [4].

Symptoms of NF include swelling, presence of pus in the infected area, extreme pain, ulcers, blisters, skin discoloration, dark-colored rashes, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and diarrhea [5].

Treatment courses depend on the severity of the case [6]. If it’s caught immediately, intravenous antibiotic therapy may be administered to combat the bacterial infection. There may or may not be a need to remove any flesh at this point. If the infection has eaten too deeply into the person’s flesh, other advanced options may be considered. These include surgery to remove the dead tissue, amputation of affected limbs, intravenous immunoglobin to boost the body’s chances of fighting the infection, and oxygen therapy to preserve healthy tissue.


  1. Flesh-eating bacteria infects Florida man fishing off coast of Palm Harbor in Gulf of Mexico. Nicole Grigg. Abc Action News. Retrieved from April 28, 2019.
  2. Diseases Caused by Group A Strep. CDC. Retrieved from No date available.
  3. Necrotizing fasciitis caused by Staphylococcus aureus: the emergence of methicillin-resistant strains. Cheng et al. NCBI. Retrieved from December 2011.
  4. Necrotizing Fasciitis. Heather A. et al. Retrieved from February 28, 2019.
  5. Necrotizing Fasciitis: All You Need to Know. CDC. Retrieved from October 18, 2018.
  6. Necrotizing Fasciitis (Flesh-Eating Bacteria). Web MD. Retrieved from July 30, 2018.