WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A Robeson County man is dead after being exposed to a flesh eating bacteria while fishing near the state line.
Doctors say Charles Curtis Hardin, 56, of Fairmont, died last week after they amputated his leg in an attempt to save his life.
Hardin was fishing in Little River Inlet on the North Carolina-South Carolina line when he cut his leg and rinsed it with salt water, according to his cousin Matt Pittman.
Pittman says Hardin went to the hospital hours after his fishing trip. His doctor said when Hardin arrived at Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Lumberton on July 30, the bacteria Vibrio vulnificus was progressing aggressively.
"He was what we would describe as septic," Dr. Obiefuna Okoye said. "He had low blood pressure, his kidney function had declined, and he had these big blisters on his legs."
Eventually, Hardin lost his fight against the illness and died.
Experts say the flesh-eating bacteria could literally be anywhere. There's no way to pinpoint its exact location, so people should take extra precautions if they cut themselves in the water.
"It's not a reportable disease for the Department of Health," said Dr. Bill Tynan with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. "There are really no public health interventions that we can employ to prevent this disease."
Because the bacteria is hard to track, health officials in South Carolina, who monitor Little River Inlet, say the best line of defense is to make sure you clean all cuts thoroughly with soap and antiseptic. But they say there's nothing they can do to get it out of the water.
Doctors say if you think you have been exposed to the bacteria, the sooner you get medical attention, the better. There is treatment for the bacteria, but the effects of germs may progress quickly.