Tampa Bay area man diagnosed with bacterial skin infection after doing yard work


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – A Tampa Bay area man is sharing his story after contracting what his doctor called a flesh-eating bacteria.

John Blanchard’s finger looks normal today. But last month, it was a different story.

Blanchard was bit by two ants doing yard work.

“I didn’t think nothing of it, threw a band aid on it,” he said.

The bite got worse.

“Forty-eight hours later, it wasn’t looking so good and within 48 hours after that, we went to Urgent Care cause it started looking really, really bad,” said Blanchard.

He was put on antibiotics, but eventually landed in the hospital at St. Anthony’s.

“At 3 a.m. Friday that week, I woke up, felt like my finger was on fire,” he said.

Doctors had to perform surgery. Blanchard was told he contracted cellulitis. Doctors described it as a flesh-eating bacterial infection. If untreated, it could spread to deeper tissues and cause a more serious case of fasciitis.

Various cases of flesh-eating bacteria have been reported across the Tampa Bay area.

Sarah Martinez was hospitalized with cellulitis after visiting a beach in Sarasota.

A Port Charlotte woman was recently hospitalized with necrotizing fasciitis after visiting Manasota Beach.

Lynn Fleming died after contracting the bacteria last month after visiting Coquina Beach.

The bacteria is not just the water.

“They can be in the sand. They can be in any surface,” said dermatologist, Dr. Maria Hicks.

Blanchard is urging others to heed the warning.

“All it takes is you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time and it’s present. Small, tiny microscopic hole is all it needs,” he said.

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