Authorities in Florida report that a flesh eating bacteria, ‘Vibrio vulnificus’ has infected dozens and killed at least two people this year. Beach goers and tourists are being warned that this bacterium, which dwells in warm seawater infects people by gaining entry through an open wound or injury. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the outbreak is reported to be seasonal with more cases occurring between May and October.
“People can get infected with Vibrio vulnificus when they eat raw shellfish,” Florida Health Department spokeswoman Mara Burger said in a statement. “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 symptoms depend upon the mode of transmission. If a person is infected by consumption of contaminated food or water they are more likely to report diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. However, if the bacterium gains access through a wound it can lead to quite horrifying symptoms: ulcers and blistering skin lesions, hence the frightening ‘flesh-eating’ title.
People most likely to get infected are those with weakened immune systems – especially people suffering from chronic liver disease. Severe complications caused by the virus include fever, chills, septic shock and death. Although most cases can be treated with antibiotics, in some cases, amputation of affected limbs became unavoidable.
Although cases are rare – around 32 cases reported in Florida last year – experts are asking people not to risk going into the water if they have fresh cuts or wounds. And to limit getting infected via contaminated food sources, it is recommended that shellfish – including oysters, clams, and mussels, be cooked thoroughly and eaten fresh after cooking. Raw seafood is best to be avoided.