Flesh-eating bacteria: Vibro Vulnificus in Florida Ocean

The dangerous flesh-eating bacteria hospitalizes 32, kills 10.
florida beach, bacteria

New warnings issued Monday surrounding a bacteria found in the ocean that has already killed several people in Florida, according to ABC Action News.

It is called Vibrio vulnificus, a cousin of the bacterium that causes Cholera and it thrives in warm saltwater. “Since it is naturally found in warm marine waters, people with open wounds can be exposed to Vibrio vulnificus through direct contact with seawater,” the Florida Department of Health said in a statement.

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The Florida Department of Health reports 13 people have contracted the bacteria and 3 have died from the strain. Last year, 41 people were infected and 11 died. Florida isn’t the only state to report Vibrio vulnificus infections. Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi have also recorded cases.

The deadly bacteria can also be contracted from consuming raw seafood like oysters.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), V. vulnificus can cause infection either through ingestion or open-wound exposure. In a healthy person, the bacteria causes vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. However in immunocompromised individuals, like those with chronic liver disease or HIV, the bacteria can travel into the bloodstream, causing severe disease with a 50 percent fatality rate. It also causes skin lesions, which is why it is known as a flesh-eating disease. An acute illness, there are no long-term consequences for those who recover from V. vulnificus. According to Health Map, The bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, live in warm marine water and are naturally present in the coastal waters of the Gulf States. The bacteria do not alter the appearance, taste or odor of the shellfish.

CDC advises the following to prevent V. vulnificus infections:

Do not eat raw oysters or other raw shellfish. Cook shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels) thoroughly.

For shellfish in the shell, either a) boil until the shells open and continue boiling for 5 more minutes, or b) steam until the shells open and then continue cooking for 9 more minutes. Do not eat those shellfish that do not open during cooking. Boil shucked oysters at least 3 minutes, or fry them in oil at least 10 minutes at 375°F.

Avoid cross-contamination of cooked seafood and other foods with raw seafood and juices from raw seafood.

Eat shellfish promptly after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.

Avoid exposure of open wounds or broken skin to warm salt or brackish water, or to raw shellfish harvested from such waters.

Wear protective clothing (e.g., gloves) when handling raw shellfish.

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