An Air Force veteran is the second man to die of a bacterial infection in Florida after eating raw Louisiana oysters.
Rodney Jackson, 55, became ill after contracting bacteria from oysters he bought at a Pensacola market and later died in hospital on August 9.
His death comes just weeks after Roger Pinckney, 44, died after eating a “one in a billion” bad oyster at the Rustin Inn Crabhouse in Fort Lauderdale.
The two men had been eating Louisiana-sourced oysters before contracting Vibrio, a bacterium typically caught when eating raw or undercooked seafood.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say Vibrio bacteria don’t make an oyster look, smell or taste any different. The agency said about 80,000 people get vibriosis in the United States each year, and about 100 people die from it.
The two men had been eating Louisiana-sourced oysters before contracting Vibrio, a bacterium typically caught when eating raw or undercooked seafood
Vibriosis: Disease transmitted by undercooked seafood
Vibriosis is a disease caused by ingestion of the Vibrio bacterium.
Usually this is ingested by eating raw or undercooked seafood. However, it can also be caught by exposing damaged skin to seawater.
Those infected experience watery diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and vomiting within the first 24 hours.
In most cases, however, the disease remains mild and resolves within three days without treatment.
Depending on the strain, up to a third of those infected can die from the disease.
In some cases, antibiotics can be used to fight off the infection.
About 100 people die from the disease in the United States each year.
Jackson, who was a husband, father and grandfather, fell ill earlier this month after eating oysters he bought at a market before being taken to Ascension Sacred Heart’s intensive care unit, where he died.
“You just have to know Rodney. That’s always been his passion — helping people, helping the community,” his wife, Patricia, told the Pensacola News Journal.
“His character and compassion will always live with all of us,” Pastor Marcel Davis, who had been friends with Jackson for over 20 years, told WEAR TV.
Pinckney, known to friends and family as Rocky, died weeks earlier on July 31 after eating oysters to celebrate his 44th birthday at the Rustic Inn in Fort Lauderdale.
Pinckney had enjoyed the celebratory dinner with his daughter Jaelyn on July 21, but two days later he arrived at Memorial Pembroke Hospital with a fever and abdominal pain, reports the South Florida SunSentinel.
Testing positive for Vibrio, he underwent a series of emergency surgeries and a double amputation before dying on July 31.
Gary Oreal, who runs the Rustic Inn, told the newspaper Pinckney worked at the restaurant years ago.
“Over the course of 60 years, we’ve served a couple billion oysters, and we’ve never had anyone get sick like this guy,” Oreal said.
Celebrities like LeBron James and Blac Chyna have frequented the Rustic Inn before dying to try its famous garlic crab. It is also claimed locally that Johnny Depp once worked there as a busboy.
Inspectors from the Florida Department of Health checked the restaurant’s kitchen and examined the oyster stock the day after Pinckney fell ill, Oreal told the newspaper.
“We passed with flying colors and were allowed to continue selling oysters,” he said, adding that the oysters currently served are from Louisiana. “If there was a problem with the oyster bed, we would know because others would have gotten sick.”
Pinckney, known to friends and family as Rocky, died weeks earlier on July 31 after eating oysters to celebrate his 44th birthday at the Rustic Inn in Fort Lauderdale (pictured).
The restaurant has a sign warning diners of the risks of eating raw shellfish.
“Oysters are the top of the mountain for dangerous foods,” Oreal said. “I’ve eaten them my whole life and will continue to do so. But you put yourself at risk if you do it.’
Pinckney was described by his father as a “hard working kid”.
“He was the life of every single party,” said Pinckney’s daughter Jaelyn, who ate with him at the Rustin Inn. ‘Never bored for a single moment around him.’
Although Jaelyn and other guests at the restaurant ate oysters that night, no one else got sick.
Jaelyn visited her father in the hospital every day before he died.
“It still doesn’t feel entirely real,” she said. “I don’t know how one oyster can cause all this.”
Pinckney, known to friends and family as Rocky, died weeks earlier on July 31 after eating oysters to celebrate his 44th birthday at the Rustic Inn in Fort Lauderdale
Pinckney’s family paid tribute to him in a GoFundMe post, describing him as a “fighter.”
They wrote: “Rocky fought to the end – so much so that none of us thought it was the end. Rocky will be greatly missed and his legacy and all our memories of him will live on.
“We are continuing this fundraiser to help his two beautiful children, Jaelyn and Austin.
“We love you, Rocky.”
Meanwhile, before Jackson died, the veteran had returned to Pensacola with his family to work for the Studer Community Institute, which helps local businesses grow.
Institute President Rachael Gillette told WEAR TV that they will continue his work and legacy.
“We just know now that we have to do it,” Gillette said. “We don’t know how we’re going to do it without Rodney. It’s going to be very difficult, but we have to do it because it’s important work – and we have to do it to honor his memory.”
She added: “He’s really helped companies that were struggling and didn’t know where to turn. Rodney was a beacon of hope for them in this community.’
The Florida Department of Health says 26 people have contracted the bacteria so far this year, and six of them later died, after eating raw shellfish, including oysters. In 2021, 10 out of 34 patients died. In 2020, there were seven deaths among the 36 patients.
Infections related to the bacteria are common in oysters and raw seafood during the summer months when water temperatures are warmer, Professor Robert “Wes” Farr of the University of West Florida told the newspaper.
“Serious infection is rare, but the risk is still there,” Farr said.