By Alex DeMetrick

ANNAPOLIS (WJZ) — Al Geisler was catching Rockfish off Sandy Point State Park last July when “this one fish poked me in the side of the calf. It just felt like a little bee sting.”

Spines at the tips of Rockfish fins aren’t toxic, but the one that poked Geisler carried a microscopic bacteria called Vibrio. A few hours later, Geisler explains, “it was like someone flipping a light switch. I got deathly sick that quick.”

He spent the next five weeks in Shock Trauma’s intensive care unit. As the Vibrio devoured more of his leg, doctors were forced to cut away more flesh to stop the bacteria’s spreading. Painful skin grafts came next, from his knee to his foot.

“I’m pretty much healed up. There hasn’t been a day since last year that I haven’t experienced pain,” Geisler said. “This thing does not go to sleep at night.”

Vibrio naturally occurs in brackish water, like the Chesapeake. In summer, it increases, but it’s not know how much is necessary to trigger a general health warning.

Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources recommends people with open sores stay out of the water, use hand sanitizer immediately if they are scraped and or cut, and shower after swimming.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there are 80,000 Vibrio infections and 100 deaths a year in the U.S.

Geisler is sharing his experience as a warning.

“I wouldn’t want this to happen to anybody, but I just want people to be aware of it.”

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