SWFL man, doctors warn of rare, potentially fatal infection

Reporter: Veronica Marshall
Published: Updated:
Puncture wound that led to vibrio infection. (Rick Peverly)

It happens to all of us.

“We decided to stop, and I went to set an anchor in the water. Jumped off the swim platform and I landed on a shell,” said Rick Peverly.

“Initially I thought, you know it’s just a cut, it’s a small wound,” said his fiancee, Renee Schexnaildre.

But then, the couple made a dangerous mistake.

“I didn’t think too much about it. Just stopped the bleeding,” Peverly said.

By the next day, he developed an infection. He said his foot swelled, he had a fever and red lines running up his leg.

“We talked with a friend of ours who is a nurse and she said that if I want to keep that foot, I should go to the emergency room immediately,” he said.

Doctors told him the puncture wound on his foot led to vibrio infection, which is rare, fast-moving and potentially deadly.

“If they can reach systemic parts of the body through an open wound, the mortality rate is very very high. It’s comparable to things like the bubonic plague,” said Dr. Matt Swearigen, assistant professor at FGCU’s department of biological sciences.

With warm temperatures on the way, Swearingen says now is when we typically start to see more vibrio infections.

“The abundance in the water gets higher, higher, higher as temperature increases – the water temperature increases,” he said. 

That’s why Peverly is sharing his story.

“If you do not seek immediate attention, the likelihood of surviving one of these infections is not in your favor,” he said.

So when the time comes, it will be on your side.

Peverly says if his story encourages one person to wear water shoes, something good will have come from his experience.

Swearingen says another way to avoid a vibrio infection is to clean any cuts or punctures and cover them with a waterproof bandage before diving in.

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