This is one of those stories that has to put every fisherman on edge. Fishing for catfish is not typically life-threatening, except in the case of a rare but deadly river bacteria that has led to the death of a Virginia fisherman.
A spokesman for the Virginia Department of Health confirmed to Reuters that the 75-year-old fisherman became infected with the vibrio vulnificus virus, essentially a flesh-eating bacteria, after getting stabbed in the leg by a catfish barb. The virus apparently entered his bloodstream through the water.
Charlie Horner was fishing on the Rappahannock River about 130 miles south of Washington when the catfish on his line would turn out to be fatal. Similar infections have a 50 percent fatality rate. Doctors tried to stem the spread in Horner’s case by amputating his leg, but he died soon after.
There were 17 infections reported in Virginia this year with five occuring from wounds. The bacteria is said to occur in brackish or salt water due to pollution and flourishes in warm weather. The CDC reports there are an estimated 95 cases per year in the US.
To avoid infection do not swim in the water if you have a wound or cut.