The tragedy is a sobering reminder that reducing water pollution in the Chesapeake Bay is critically important for public health reasons, not just to help fish and crabs.
Harry “Long John” Studds was catching eels in the Potomac River, Mattox Creek and Monroe Bay on Aug. 19 when his leg got infected after he waded into the water in shorts, according to a report in the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star.
A raging infection that he is certain came from the water caused doctors to amputate his leg to save his life, the paper reported. "They took the whole leg. They wanted to make sure they got all of the infection to keep it from spreading to my heart," Studds said.
Dr. Rita Colwell, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, said in the report that these infections are a reminder that we need to do more to prevent nutrient pollution and global warming, both of seem to be playing a role in the rise of infections in Virginia.
“It tells us we ought to be paying attention to these changes,” Colwell said in the report, speaking of warming waters and more nutrient pollution.
The photo above is a scar on the leg of another Virginia waterman, Mark Allen, who barely survived a Vibrio infection.
“My leg had got so hot, it started to blister and turn black, all the way from my knee to the top of my foot,” Allen, of Hague, Va., recalled of his illness.
“At one point, they were almost coming to the point of amputation above the knee, is how bad the infection had blown out of proportion," Hague said, while sitting on his couch and showing the deep scar on his leg.
Allen recovered from his infection after a four-month battle, although he went bankrupt from his medical bills and still has a limp. He said he never remembers his father, grandfather or great-grandfather – all watermen like him – talking about bacteria like this.
“Everything’s changed," Allen said. “I remember as a kid, when we used to oyster, the water was so clear, that you could see the bottom 12 feet deep. Now, it’s just a murky, muddy mess.”