By Cleve Bryan

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MILLVILLE, N.J. (CBS) – It’s a summertime tradition — fishing for crabs in our rivers and bays.

A Cumberland County man who has done it many times before is now fighting for his life after contracting a flesh-eating bacteria while crabbing off the Maurice River.

“The choice is life or limbs and I’ve heard that multiple times,” said Dilena Perez-Dilan, after her 60-year-old father, Angel Perez, contracted the disease while crabbing last week in Commercial Township. “The sores started showing up on his legs and he started hallucinating.”

Perez-Dilan says on July 2 her father was crabbing at his favorite spot near Matt’s Landing on the river. Complaining of pain, he went to an urgent care the next day and got antibiotics but the swelling only got worse as the bacteria spread to his bloodstream.

“They told us that his kidneys shut down and that he would need dialysis immediately,” said Perez-Dilan.

Perez had to have a leg surgically drained as an infectious disease doctor investigated the cause of the infection. It turned out to be Vibrio vulnificus, a bacteria common to warm brackish water that is usually only a concern when you eat raw shellfish.

“Typically, when you get an infection like this, it enters through an existing wound and can spread throughout the bloodstream and can cause other complications such as necrotizing fasciitis, which he unfortunately got,” said Cumberland County Health Officer Megan Sheppard.

In other words, a flesh-eating bacterial infection which the Centers for Disease Control only sees in about 200 cases nationally each year.

“It’s kind of creepy and I’m like we need to have gloves, we need to make sure we don’t touch anything, wash our hands,” said Raquel Myers, who lives in Commercial Township.

And in Perez’s case, he is immunocompromised because he has Parkinson’s disease. With the prognosis still unknown, the Perez family is praying Angel leaves the hospital with his life and limbs.

“We’ve all been praying and I think our spirituality, our religion, has been allowing us to get through without going into a chaotic mess,” said Perez-Dilan.

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