WSB Sends Scare With ‘Flesh Eating Bacteria’ Water Warning

By Mark Joyella 

Atlanta’s WSB has walked back an alarming report of “flesh-eating bacteria” that threatened to impact swimming over the Fourth of July holiday.

The ABC affiliate’s chief meteorologist, Glenn Burns, issued a warning Wednesday of “really toxic levels of fecal bacteria” and algae in the waters of Okaloosa and Walton counties, showing a map in bright red. Burns told viewers the National Weather Service had issued “no swim advisories” for beaches, saying that it was “very dangerous to swim in these waters. They call this the, kind of, flesh-eating bacteria.”

In Panama City, local officials called the report misleading:

The reports set off a barrage of phone calls and emails from people wanting to know why local media and health officials were not reporting the beaches being “closed.” Several condominium owners reported cancelations for the weekend.

The situation prompted a response from the Bay County Tourist Development Council. The statement from spokesperson David Demarest read, “As the front desks at the Visitor Center and the Chamber is aware, there is a story going around that’s causing some confusion. The end point should be that this does not apply to Panama City Beach, and monitoring shows that our beaches and water are in good condition.”

The fact is the National Weather Service does not issue these type advisories.

The Florida Department of Health does issue water quality advisories, but they are common and have not included any mention of “flesh-eating bacteria.”

Burns, writing on his Facebook page, admitted his mistake. “I gave you some wrong information earlier … The Florida Department of Health Okaloosa County says this bacteria is not flesh-eating bacteria. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.”