Flesh-eating bacteria turns family vacation into tragedy

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SAN MARCOS (KXAN) — A local family’s vacation to the Texas Gulf Coast ended in heartache.

The family told KXAN 78-year-old Jerry Sebek who has lived in San Marcos for decades died last week after contracting flesh-eating bacteria.

Like many of the recent cases across the country, they said it caused a severe skin infection.

Kim Sebek said, “We were on a family vacation down in Palacios.”

On June 13, she said the family went fishing.

“We noticed dad was just a little shaky coming off the boat, had a hard time walking,” she said.

Jerry Sebek of San Marcos fishing with his grandson. (Kim Sebek photo)

At first, Kim said, “We thought maybe signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion because he was shivering a little bit. He felt warm, but he was shivering.”

The family took him to a nearby hospital right away. She said Jerry’s blood tests looked normal, but several hours later, they saw huge blisters forming.

The family ended up moving him to a hospital in Victoria. Kim said that’s where they learned about vibrio vulnificus, a type of bacteria that can be deadly. They believe Jerry got infected through a cut on his arm or hand while fishing.

“This is learning for me, after the fact unfortunately,” Kim said.

She told KXAN she and her siblings wish they knew about the early symptoms, the ones that Jerry showed even before the blisters formed.

“It started with the chills, the shivering, confusion. You talk about signs and symptoms, and I’m learning more about vibrio. It’s just very important to know lesions and blisters aren’t the first thing.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does say symptoms of infections caused by bacteria like vibrio can be confusing.

According to the CDC, the infection often spreads very quickly. Early symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis can include:

  • A red or swollen area of skin that spreads quickly
  • Severe pain, including pain beyond the area of the skin that is red or swollen
  • Fever

Later symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis can include:

  • Ulcers, blisters, or black spots on the skin
  • Changes in the color of the skin
  • Pus or oozing from the infected area

The Centers for Disease Control says early detection is key to survival. For Kim and her siblings, that could’ve meant a little more time they could’ve spent with their dad.

Kim said, “He taught us everything we know. He inspired us. He encouraged us. He taught us life lessons, and we miss those things from him. We just think it’s important to educate, whether it’s a doctor or nurse, people in the community, about this.”

The family told KXAN Jerry was an active member of his church in San Marcos and stayed active by volunteering and frequently traveling to see his children and grandchildren.

Kim said, “He’s a server of the community, and he wants what’s best for everyone.”

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