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California man dies of flesh-eating bacteria after chasing dog into pond with scratch on his arm, mother says

Jeff Bova, 41, died Friday after a bout with necrotizing fasciitis, his mother said.

A California woman is urging the public to avoid standing water after, she says, her son was infected with a flesh-eating bacterium and died.

Jeff Bova, 41, died Friday after he waded into standing water with a small cut on his right arm last month as he chased his dog into a pond.

“Stay away from standing water, especially after it rains, because there is just a ton of bacteria in it,” Susan Mc Intyre, Bova's mother, said Tuesday.

“If you get any kind of cut and it starts getting red, go to the doctor immediately — don’t wait."

Bova was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, his mother said.

The often-deadly infection spreads quickly, killing the body’s soft tissue. Symptoms include warm skin with red or purplish areas of painful swelling, including beyond the affected area, followed by fever, fatigue and vomiting.

Even with treatment, up to 1 in 3 people with necrotizing fasciitis die from the infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 700 to 1,100 cases are recorded in the U.S. every year.

“Accurate diagnosis, rapid antibiotic treatment, and prompt surgery are important to stopping this infection,” the CDC says.

Mc Intyre, 67 of El Cajon, California, said her son was not one who frequented doctors.

Bova, of San Diego, tried to out-tough the infection he contracted in the mountains of Julian in San Diego County.

“He developed these really nasty blisters, and he said that it felt … when his arm was oozing that it was acid coming down his arm,” she said.

Bova, who was treating the infection with antibiotic cream and moisture, eventually succumbed to the pain and went to a hospital and died two days later, Mc Intyre said.

NBC News has not confirmed the flesh-eating bacteria as the official cause of death.

Dr. Shweta Warner, who specializes in infectious diseases, told NBC San Diego that necrotizing fasciitis isn’t contagious but that it’s rare and serious.

“It enters your body through your broken skin barrier, and it quickly reproduces in your tissue, moving through the tissues very rapidly and giving off toxins,” Warner said.

Streptococcus A, a bacterium that causes necrotizing fasciitis, is often found in warm, brackish water, Warner said. It’s especially dangerous for people with weaker immune systems.

In a 2019 report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers concluded climate change may have brought flesh-eating bacteria to previously unaffected waters.

In June 2019, Carolyn Fleming, of Ellenton, Florida, died of necrotizing fasciitis after she cut her leg in the waters off Anna Maria Island in Florida, her family said.

Mc Intyre said the rare condition needs to be publicized to save lives.

She described her son as compassionate and selfless and a dog lover. He was also engaged to be married, Mc Intyre said.

Mc Intyre said that she and her son spoke every day and that he was a handyman who was building her a wooden stove for her patio.

“He was just within a couple of days of finishing it,” she said. “Right before he passed, he told me he still had a job to finish for me.”