Is this sort of thing common in the Gulf? Scary. Makes you almost want to stay ashore...
Aug. 14, 2004, 1:49AM
Man loses battle with Gulf bacteria
Houston dentist who was infected last month dies in Victoria hospital
By JOHN W. GONZALEZ
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
A Houston dentist with a passion for Gulf Coast preservation has lost his monthlong battle with a flesh-eating bacteria that invaded a cut on his leg while he was fishing near Port O'Connor, officials said Friday.
Dr. Kenneth Dean Creamer, 52, who practiced dentistry in northwest Houston, died late Thursday in a Victoria hospital where he had been treated since July 17, two days after he was exposed to the saltwater bacteria vibrio vulnificus.
His is the seventh vibrio-related death in Texas this year, officials said. At least a dozen Texans have been injured by the choleralike bacteria as well, according to the Texas Department of Health.
Another man on Creamer's fishing-contest outing was infected by a different strain of the bacteria. He was released from the Victoria hospital on Monday after more than three weeks of treatment, including several surgeries to remove tainted flesh. Officials attributed his survival to swift medical treatment after exposure.
Creamer apparently got a minor cut on his leg July 15 when he slipped on a dock. The following day, the leg grew swollen and he sought treatment in Port Lavaca. By the second day he was critically ill, a spokesman at Citizens Medical Center in Victoria said.
"By the time he got here, vibrio had already infiltrated his blood system and he was in shock, which itself can be deadly," CMC spokesman Melissa Purl said. Within days, both legs were amputated and he sank into a coma, she said.
"I've never seen anybody fight to live harder in my whole life. It was absolutely amazing. Even though he was not conscious — he was sedated and he was so very sick — he fought the good fight. He was an inspiration to all of us," Purl said.
Creamer is survived by his wife, Jane, and two sons. Funeral services were pending.
Cared about conservation
Creamer was a leading figure in the Houston-based Coastal Conservation Association Texas for about 20 years, Executive director Pat Murray said.
Creamer was a member of the group's state and executive boards, and through the years had helped with fund-raising and youth and environmental programs.
"He's been involved since the get-go. He was a very, very strong supporter and hard worker for Texas coastal conservation efforts," Murray said.
"Ken cared dearly about the Texas coast and he put in so much work and time to try to ensure its longevity," he said. "His contributions to CCA will long be remembered. His contribution to the conservation of Texas coastal marine resources was substantial."
Others have been stricken
Creamer was one of several Houston-area residents stricken by the bacteria in Gulf waters this summer. A Bay City man who went fishing in the Laguna Madre and a Dayton man who vacationed in Freeport were successfully treated in late July for exposure to the vibrio bacteria.
Health experts said the bacteria is common in the Gulf and most prevalent in coastal and bay waters in warmer months. The bacteria can be ingested in contaminated seafood, such as oysters, or absorbed through skin wounds, but doesn't penetrate healthy skin.
The Centers for Disease Control, which has recorded vibrio-related illnesses and deaths since 1988, said cases are rare but underreported. A typical year brings 16 deaths along the Gulf Coast states, the CDC said.
The Texas Department of Health reported Friday that so far this year, there have been 31 illnesses caused by vibrio, including the seven deaths, four of which were attributed to eating contaminated oysters.
Experts say those who enter coastal waters should make note of skin cuts and check them later for redness or swelling. If caught quickly, illness caused by the bacteria is controllable with antibiotics.
• Location : The bacteria, vibrio vulnificus , is common in the Gulf and most prevalent in coastal and bay waters in warmer months.
• Transmission : It can be ingested in contaminated seafood, such as oysters, or absorbed through skin wounds; it doesn't penetrate healthy skin.
• Confirmed cases : From March through July, there were 11 confirmed cases of non-fatal, wound-related vibrio infections in Texas, according to the CDC.
• Precautions : Experts say those who enter coastal waters should make note of skin cuts and check them later for redness or swelling. If caught quickly, illness caused by the bacteria is controllable with antibiotics.