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Hernando County, Florida -- It can appear to be a beautiful day at the beach when the sun is shining, kids are playing and dolphins occasionally pop up as they swim by...butthere are unseen dangers lurking throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

Vibrio vulnificus is a common bacteria found in warm salt water and can cause disease in people if exposed to open wounds or ingested.

Just about two weeks ago,84-year-old Margaret Freiwald was boating off Hernando Channel near Pine Island, when she scraped her shin climbing aboard a boat. Infection set in and by Tuesday, doctors had to amputate her right leg just above the knee.

Margaret's daughter,Amber Castleman, says the unexpected incident has been horrible.

"It's devastating. I mean one day you're out on the water having a good time, and three days later your mothers leg is off, and her life is in the balance."

Complicated by the trauma, Margaret suffered a heart attack and failing kidneys in the process. She is now on a ventilator.

The Health department does not want to scare people from going out and enjoying the water, however they do want folks to be aware of what's out there, and who is at risk.

"People who have a decreased immune system are more prone to be affected by this bacteria. It may move into their blood system more easily."

Amber said her mother was in good health before their nice day on the water turned into a life-threatening nightmare.

"My mom is 84 but she is completely healthy the only thing she had is arthritis," explained Amber before warning, "I just want everyone to be aware you should not go out there with open wounds."

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