Siesta Key, Florida - George Bissette will never forget the day he was stabbed in the leg with a stingray barb.
"Well, that's my nickname now, is stingray," joked the Venice retiree.
A funny nickname for a serious situation, some might say. The sting was so severe forGeorge that his wound was an open gash big and bad enough to be a gaping hole. He says the pain was unbearable.
"I mean, it was the worst pain in my life. I almost passed out a few times, sitting on a gurney in the hospital," said George.
While George had his pain on the brain, his wife Karen was thinking about something much more sinister - bacteria lurking in the Gulf .
"You hear so many things, you think that could never happen here to us, but it can. There's so much we don't know," Karen told 10 News.
Here's what experts do know. Since October is mating season for stingrays, the creatures are everywhere, and doctors are seeing up to 16 victims a week in some cases. When people are stung, the puncture wound is usually deep, leaving the beach goer vulnerable to bacteria. In some cases, that bacteria can be deadly.
The bacteria Vibrio Vulnificus lives in shallow brackish, saltwater. It can get into an open wound, or you can ingest it from eating shellfish. Nine people in Florida have died so far from infections.
Longtime emergency physician, Dr. William Mahoney, has worked at Sarasota Memorial for more than 25 years.
"There is a risk that develops slowly after puncture wound, and so it is prudent to seek attention," he said.
Doctors aren't taking any chances. If you're stung by a stingray, or have an open wound, an antibiotics shot is usuallygiven. In addition, sometimes a tetanus shot is also administered.
Physicians tell us people affected the most are those with compromised immune systems and that most of these cases are rare.