Well-known Sponge dock Captain laid up by infection

Pinellas County

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. (WFLA) – He went fishing with his grandson but came home with a nasty infection.

Captain George Billiris, who owns the famous St. Nicholas boat line at the Tarpon Springs sponge docks, is laid up in a hospital.

The tours that explain the sponging business are not leaving the dock. George Billiris is fighting a bacteria in his left leg that he caught while fishing.

“At first, my legs starting to get a little red and sore.  Kind of like a burning feeling” said Billiris.

Recovering at Mease Countryside hospital, Captain Billiris explained how a July 22nd fishing trip, with his grandson, turned into turmoil.

“I was just wading in the water there in the canal.  And apparently, I had a couple of scabs on my legs that must have entered through” he said.

During an excursion, while piloting the St. Nicholas 7, on the Anclote River, things took a turn for the worse. “About an hour after that, I was doing my last tour on the boat, I started to get fever and chills” Billiris explained.

Doctors told him, his infection is from Vibrio Vulnificus, the same bacteria found in contaminated shellfish, like oysters.

They removed a large blister, but his foot and leg are swollen. He’s on a powerful mix of antibiotics.

Down at the sponge docks, his friends are missing him greatly. Business is down at Dimitris on the water. “We cooperate together.  And as a matter of fact, when a guest cruising, we giving 10 percent discount of the tickets, so it make it very profitable for both of us” said Dimitri’s General Manager, George Hondromihalis.

George Billiris offers this advice: “If you’re going to be wading in the water and stuff, check your legs and stuff. Make sure you don’t have types of cuts or even scabs.”

The St. Nicholas boat is tied up, waiting for George to return. “Hey George, I hope you feel better. Soon” said George Hondromihalis.

George’s grandson is feeling fine.  He was not infected with the bacteria.
George said he will be in the hospital for some time.

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