It’s the sort of story that sends goosebumps up your spine and makes you afraid to go back into the water. Rather than a giant shark, though, the terror in question is actually microscopic.

Over the weekend, The Daily Times of Salisbury, Maryland reported on the tragic and gruesome death of Michael Funk earlier this September. Funk had been staying with his wife, Marcia, at their condominium in Ocean City, with plans to leave for their Arizona home soon. On September 11, however, Funk became incredibly ill and was rushed to the hospital. Though Funk was eventually transferred to a shock trauma hospital in Baltimore, where he had his infected leg amputated, he died four days later on September 15. Doctors confirmed that he succumbed to a cousin of the germ that causes cholera called Vibrio vulnificus. Funk had been crabbing offshore, and the bacteria is assumed to have infected him via an open cut in his leg.

"It's like something out of a horror movie," Marcia Funk told The Daily Times.

As Medical Daily has previously detailed, V. vulnificus can be a nasty customer. The rod-shaped bacteria is found in warm marine waters as well as in surrounding shellfish and sea life. People don’t come into contact with it too often — there are only about 85,000 cases of infection with V. vulnificus or other Vibrio species in the United States annually — nor does it typically cause the same sort of destruction seen in Funk’s case. In part due to warming weather, though, there is some indication that people are getting exposed to it more often.

Most people catch Vibrio through eating contaminated food, which often results in a short-lasting bout of food poisoning. Infections like Funk’s are much more dangerous, as the bacteria disintegrates the flesh of its victims via a rapid necrotization of the skin and muscles surrounding the original wound. These cases carry a 25 percent fatality rate and even those who survive are often forced to ampute their affected limbs. The bacteria can also infect a person’s bloodstream, causing sepsis. It's estimated that 10 percent of V. vulnificus infections are ultimately fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Some people can have an infection, maybe get a little sick, and be just fine," Roman Jesien, a marine scientist and chairman of the Maryland Coastal Advisory Fishery Committee told The Daily Times. "Others aren't as lucky. There's a lot of factors that come into play."

Infections caused by other Vibrio species are less worrisome and more common than V. vulnificus, with the majority caused by Vibrio parahaemolyticus. According to The Daily Times, Maryland has regularly dealt with Vibrio outbreaks in recent years, with 2013 having a record high of 57 cases. Vibrio cases, as expected, most often occur during the warmest months of May to October.

Though the chances of contracting V. vulnificus are slim, there are some practical steps you can take to further avoid it. These include not eating raw oysters or other raw shellfish, cooking seafood thoroughly, and keeping open wounds away from warm salt and brackish water or raw fish.