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Air Force vet, 55, is second man to die from bacterial infection after eating market oyster

An Air Force veteran has become the second man to die in Florida from a bacterial infection after eating raw oysters from Louisiana

Rodney Jackson, 55, became sick after contracting the bacteria from oysters he bought at a market in Pensacola 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 eaten oysters that had come from Louisiana before becoming infected with vibrio, a bacteria typically caught from eating raw or undercooked seafood. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Vibrio bacteria doesn’t make an oyster look, smell, or taste any different. The agency said about 80,000 people get vibriosis in the U.S. each year, and about 100 people die from it. 

The two men had eaten oysters that had come from Louisiana before becoming infected with vibrio, a bacteria typically caught from eating raw or undercooked seafood

Vibriosis: Illness caught from uncooked seafood

Vibriosis is a disease triggered by consuming the bacteria Vibrio.

Normally, this is ingested through eating raw or undercooked seafood. However, it can also be caught from exposing damaged skin to seawater.

Infected people tend to suffer watery diarrhea, cramps, nausea and vomiting within the first 24 hours.

But in most cases the illness remains mild and clears up in three days without treatment.

Depending on the strain, up to a third of people infected may die from the disease.

In some cases antibiotics may be used to fight off the infection.

About 100 people die from the illness in the U.S. every year. 

Source: CDC

Jackson, who was a husband, father and grandfather, became sick earlier this month after eating the oysters he bought from a market before he was rushed to Ascension Sacred Heart’s ICU where he died. 

‘You just have to know Rodney. That was always his passion — to help people, to help the community,’ his wife, Patricia, told Pensacola News Journal.  

‘His character and his compassion will always will always live with all of us,’ Pastor Marcel Davis, who had been friends with Jackson for over 20 years, told WEAR TV

Pinckney, who is known as Rocky by friends and family, died weeks earlier on July 31 after eating oysters at the Rustic Inn in Fort Lauderdale in celebration of his 44th birthday. 

Pinckney had been enjoying 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

He tested positive for vibrio and underwent a series of emergency surgeries and a double amputation before he died on July 31. 

Gary Oreal, who manages the Rustic Inn, told the newspaper that Pinckney had worked years ago at the restaurant. 

‘Over the course of 60 years, we have served a couple billion oysters, and we never had anyone get sick like this guy did,’ Oreal said.

Celebrities including LeBron James and Blac Chyna have frequented the Rustic Inn before eager 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 out the restaurant’s kitchen and examined its oyster inventory the day after Pinckney became ill, Oreal told the newspaper.

‘We passed with flying colors and we were allowed to continue to sell oysters,’ he said, adding the oysters being served currently are from Louisiana. 

‘If there was a problem with the oyster bed we would know it because others would have gotten sick.’

Pinckney, who is known as Rocky by friends and family, died weeks earlier on July 31 after eating oysters at the Rustic Inn in Fort Lauderdale (pictured) in celebration of his 44th birthday

Pinckney, who is known as Rocky by friends and family, died weeks earlier on July 31 after eating oysters at the Rustic Inn in Fort Lauderdale (pictured) in celebration of his 44th birthday

The restaurant has a sign warning patrons about the risks of eating raw shellfish.

‘Oysters are top of the mountain for dangerous foods to eat,’ Oreal said. ‘I have eaten them my entire life, and will continue. But you are putting yourself at risk when you do it.’

Pinckney has been described as a ‘hard-working kid’ by his father.

‘He was the life of every single party,’ said Pinckney’s daughter Jaelyn, who had been eating at the Rustin inn with him. ‘Never a single moment of just boring around him.’ 

Despite Jaelyn and other customers in the restaurant eating oysters on that night, no one else became sick. 

Jaelyn visited her father at the hospital every day before he died.  

‘It still doesn’t feel completely real,’ she said. ‘I don’t know how an oyster could cause all of this.’  

Pinckney, who is known as Rocky by friends and family, died weeks earlier on July 31 after eating oysters at the Rustic Inn in Fort Lauderdale in celebration of his 44th birthday

Pinckney, who is known as Rocky by friends and family, died weeks earlier on July 31 after eating oysters at the Rustic Inn in Fort Lauderdale in celebration of his 44th birthday 

Pinckney’s family paid tribute to him in a GoFundMe post, describing him as a ‘fighter’. 

They wrote: ‘Rocky fought till the very end — so much so, that none of us thought it was the end just yet. Rocky will be deeply missed and his legacy and all our memories with him will live on. 

‘We are continuing this fundraiser to help with his two beautiful children, Jaelyn and Austin.

‘We love you Rocky.’ 

Meanwhile, before Jackson died, the veteran had moved back to Pensacola with his family to work for the Studer Community Institute, which helps local businesses grow.

The institute’s president, Rachael Gillette, told WEAR TV that they will continue his work and legacy. 

‘We just know right 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 hard, 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 businesses that were struggling and didn’t know where to turn. Rodney’s been a beacon of hope for them in this community.’ 

The Florida Department of Health says 26 people have become infected with the bacteria and six of them later died after eating raw shellfish, including oysters, so far this year. In 2021, 10 people died out of 34 people sickened. In 2020, there were seven deaths among the 36 who became ill.

Infections linked to the bacteria are common in oysters and raw seafood during the summer months when water temperatures are warmer, University of West Florida Professor Robert ‘Wes’ Farr said.

‘Serious infection is rare, but the risk is still there,’ Farr said.


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