Beware of the Bug

August 4, 2019. The following letter to the editor was published in the Citrus County Chronicle on this date.

A funny thing happened on my last kayak fishing trip in Ozello.  While trying to unhook a rambunctious ladyfish, it managed to sink two treble hooks into the palm of my hand.  

Similar past occurrences resulted in trips to the emergency room where attendant nurses managed to remove the piercing pieces of metal from numbed appendages, trying not to smile too broadly in the process.  This time, having bent down the barbs, I managed to extricate the hooks without further assistance.  

As I resumed my paddling / casting routine, I couldn’t help but think about recent articles I’ve read recounting how some folks contracted the flesh eating bacteria, necrotizing fasciitis, after cutting or scraping themselves on the water.  Some died and some survived following long stays in the ICU.

I understand this bug thrives in warm water, and the water I was fishing in felt like that in my wife’s bathtub.  It also flourishes in nutrient rich water, the kind resulting from recent blue-green algae outbreaks not far from us.   I wondered how much of the nutrient rich water has made its way to Ozello, and how much of the decaying organic matter, a result of the massive die-offs from last year’s red tide outbreak, has found its way up here to feed and stimulate growth of the NF population.   

It occurred to me that our warming climate will exacerbate such occurrences in the future.   They say the best way to avoid becoming infected by NF is to wash your hands frequently, but that’s kind of hard to do when you’re paddling around in a yak occasionally unhooking fish.   

I washed thoroughly when I returned home, and, so far, haven’t noticed any swelling, blisters or weird colored skin.   

From now on, I’ll be more careful unhooking fish.  No more wading around oyster bars.  I’ve also added a container of anti-bacterial wipes to my first aide kit.