Man kayaking in Tennessee River contracts flesh-eating bacteria

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – ( – A warning if you spend time in the Pickwick area. A 41-year-old man is in the hospital after contracting a flesh-eating bacteria. He had been kayaking in the Tennessee River near Waterloo, Alabama.

Cassey Rutherford said she wants to get the word out to stay out of the Tennessee River. Thousands of people from the Mid-South spend their weekends in that region.

“I don’t want anybody else to go through this,” said Rutherford. She is thankful her husband  Ricky is still alive. Just two days after a trip to the Tennessee River, her husband got sick .

“He come home with a 103 temperature there was no obvious signs of anything else, just the fever,” said Rutherford.

Soon after, a spot on his leg started to look worse. She drew an outline around it to see if it spread. It did, doctors confirmed it was a type of flesh-eating bacteria.

“You get sick very quickly and get into septic shock very quickly,” said Dr. Muhammad  Khurshid, Infectious Disease Specialist with St Francis Hospital.

Khurshid says during summer, high numbers of bacteria can be in the warm water. There are several types of flesh eating bacteria. People with low immune systems and open wounds are at highest risk, although Rutherford says that was not the case with her husband.

“Sometimes you have a small, microscopic cracks in the skin that anyone could have, and you don’t know you have an open wound and that’s enough for the bacteria to enter the skin,” said Khurshid.

Recently we’ve heard about bacteria infections killing beach goers along the ocean, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen here.

“In any type of water that can happen, mostly it’s in the saltwater. In the freshwater also it could happen,” said Khurshid.

Rutherford had surgery to remove the damaged area. If he continues to improve, he might leave the hospital next week.

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