An Alabama man was infected with flesh-eating bacteria while kayaking down the Tennessee River, nearly killing him in the process.

Dr. Henry Spratt says a bacterial infection of any kind shouldn't be taken lightly.

If it isn't treated as early as possible, it can cause severe to even deadly problems.

"If you get the bad species of bacteria deep in the tissue, particularly if it's a deep cut, that's when you have to be careful,” Spratt said.

Doctor Henry Spratt has studied microbiology for more than 30 years. He says when it comes to dealing with bacterial infections, people can’t be too careful.

"My rule: if I am ever cutting the grass and I scrape myself, I will immediately go in and put a triple antibiotic ointment on the wound and tape it up with some form of band aid,” Spratt said.

Ricky Rutherford was exposed to flesh-eating bacteria earlier this week.

The bacteria caused redness of the skin and caused cultures, or large swellings, which then led him to the emergency room.

He had a temperature of 103 degrees. 

Doctors had to remove a 5-6 inch piece of his thigh.

Spratt says the flesh-eating bacteria Rutherford was exposed to is rare in bodies of water, but says everyone should be on alert.

"Because modern medicine has been so effective at preventing the spread of disease and being able to cure people of those diseases, people are complacent," Spratt said. "Why do you need to worry if it can be fixed?”

Spratt himself experienced a staph infection and knows how quickly any infection can spread.  

He says seek help immediately. 

"These things happen fast. And then what I learned there is that I shouldn't just trust my regular physician right away. If you're getting a fever and you are feeling really ill and you are seeing major swelling, go to the emergency room. They can drain it right then,” Spratt said.

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