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SW Fla. Woman Fighting For Life Against Rare Bacteria

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File photo of a doctor wearing a stethoscope. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

File photo of a doctor wearing a stethoscope. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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NAPLES, Fla. (CBSMiami/AP) — What started off as a simple swim in the Gulf of Mexico has left an elderly woman fighting for her life in Southwest Florida.

The Associated Press reports that 84-year-old Margaret Freiwald was swimming near Tampa when she cut her leg while boating. Then she went on vacation in Collier County and became gravely ill.

She’s now in the intensive care unit at a hospital in Naples. The infection was so aggressive that doctors were forced to amputate her leg.

Doctors told the family that Freiwald came in contact with a bacterium called vibrio vulnificus.

Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium in the same family as those that cause cholera, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It normally lives in warm seawater and is part of a group of vibrios that are called “halophilic” because they require salt.

The infection has also attacked her internal organs; she suffered kidney failure and had a heart attack.

Health experts say the virus can thrive in any warm saltwater body across the country.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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