Warnings About Flesh-Eating Ocean Bacteria Issued by Florida Health Officials

Categories: Health

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So apparently there's a flesh-eating bacteria that thrives in warm saltwater and is living in our oceans, according to Florida health officials.

The bacteria, known as vibrio vulnificus, has caused 32 people to be hospitalized and killed ten in Florida. That was through a period of years, not all at once. Since 2013, there have been five cases of vibrio and two deaths in Broward County.

Still, it's enough of a risk that the Florida Department of Health issued new warnings on Monday. So if you plan on heading out to the beach for a swim, be aware that a flesh-eating bacteria is floating around out there.

Here's what you need to know about vibrio.

See also: South Florida Sees the First Local Cases of the Mosquito Virus Chikungunya

First of all, the bacterium normally lives in warm seawater and is part of a group of vibrios that are called "halophilic" because they require salt. And if there are two things Florida waters have plenty of, it's warmth and salt.

"A person can contract vibrio by eating tainted raw shellfish and oysters," Florida Department of Health Deputy Press Secretary Pamela Crane tells New Times. "And people who swim in seawater [and] have open wounds are also vulnerable to the bacteria."

Vibrio can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, but is especially dangerous for people with weak immune systems, especially those with chronic liver disease. Vibrio can get into the bloodstream and cause life-threatening illnesses. Symptoms include fever, chills, a drop in blood pressure, and skin lesions.

According to the Florida Department of Health, those who get the bacteria into their bloodstreams die about 50 percent of the time. People with weaker immune systems were 80 times more likely to develop the infection in the bloodstream than healthy people, according to health officials.

Reports of people contracting the vibrio bacteria are rare, however. That may be because it's gone largely unnoticed over the years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 900 infections have been reported from the Gulf Coast states between 1988 and 2006. Prior to 2007, there really was no way of monitoring it.

So basically, if you have a weak immune system or an open wound, it's best to avoid the water for now. If you do go swimming, make sure to wash off thoroughly afterward.

"It's rare, but we wanted to get the warning out there to make sure people are educated about it," Crane says.

The best way of avoidance, however, is to stay away from raw oysters and other shellfish. If you absolutely, positively must eat the stuff, make sure it's cooked thoroughly. Be sure to boil shucked oysters for at least three minutes, or fry them in oil for at least ten minutes at 375°F.

The main thing is that this is a normal occurrence in our waters. Chances are, you've already been swimming in vibrio-infected waters and are doing just fine. What health officials want to stress is that people with weak immune systems should take extra precautions.

Nobody needs a bad case of the runs from all orifices after a nice day out at the beach.

For more info, read the handy-dandy flier we've embedded below:

Vibrio Info by Chris Joseph

Send your story tips to the author, Chris Joseph.

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24 comments
markie19
markie19 topcommenter



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Cindy Kernitzky Eisen
Cindy Kernitzky Eisen

Magali Salazar Lima Auclair....this is what we were talking about last night.

Michael Phillips
Michael Phillips

Bet it has nothing to do with all the "Oil Eating Bacteria" that was dumped into the Gulf of Mexico a few years ago to contain that large oil spill.. Yea right!

Oa Brown
Oa Brown

Flesh eating bacteria. Ebola. Climate change. Can we leave the house anymore?

gumbydude
gumbydude

This article is fraught with a bunch of errors. It's a bacteria, not a virus. Also, it's Vibrio vulnificus in italics, any good journalist would know that.

They also make it out to be a big problem, when really only people with weak immune systems, like kids or elderly, eat raw infected shellfish (primarily oysters) tend to get infected. Even with an open cut, it's probably not going to be a big issue unless their numbers are astronomical in local waters.

Either way, most antibiotics effective against gram-negative bacteria should be able to kill this off with no problem. It's not a common bacterial infection and doesn't have much of a chance to develop resistance because it naturally lives in the ocean.

Lastly,
skin lesions are not the same thing as a "flesh eating" infection. The bacteria causes sores. Not necrotic tissue that could require amputations like MRSA or VRSA

Yay_Science
Yay_Science

So is it bacteria or a virus? Those are not equivalent terms

Elisabet Martinez
Elisabet Martinez

And they finished eating...they about to knock out. I wore them out. All day in the sun!

Nicholas Ali
Nicholas Ali

Sounds mainly a gulf coast problem... Its not gonna deter me!!

rwsurf
rwsurf

You're correct, they are not the same.  Vibrio is a bacteria.

guest
guest

virus or bacteria? not the same.

Joanna Cortez
Joanna Cortez

thats what happens when officials dump semi-treated wastewater into our beaches.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

@gumbydude


why take a chance ?


did you know 40,ooo,ooo gal per day get pumped into the ocean by hollywood sewer which creates FECAL MATTER ALERTs and WARNINGs regularly ?


the TRUTH is diminished because good forbid we should be honest with our guests and visitors who come down to spend a lot of money


just another ft liquordale scam mentality to screw the tourists

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

@shrimpster


maybe the coast guard should have dumped a billion pounds more of COREXIT

PeppermintPat
PeppermintPat

@poledancerosario Oh really? It's fatal to 50% of the people infected. And better yet, Florida doesn't even test the water for it (as most US states do) at public beaches. This is the newspaper attempting to warn people, because the state government doesn't care.

And also, fuck yourself. If you don't like lame USA news, stop reading it.

crabapple7
crabapple7

@PeppermintPat @poledancerosario The newspaper is reporting on a warning issued by the Florida Department of Health. FYI, the Florida Department of Health is a part of the state government. So how is it you drew the conclusion that the newspaper is trying to warn people, and that the state gov doesn't care?? Did you even read the article?

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