Florida to Beachgoers: Beware Flesh-Eating Bug

High levels of Vibrio bacteria found in state waters

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 29, 2014 3:44 AM CDT

(Newser) Crash-landing planes aren't the only hazard on Florida beaches: The state has warned that high levels of flesh-eating Vibrio bacteria have been detected in its waters, Gawker reports. The naturally-occurring bacteria, which thrives in warm, moderately salty water, causes around 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths in the US yearly and killed at least 11 people in Florida last year, according to Florida Today. Health officials say the bacteria is especially dangerous to people with weak immune systems and is fatal around 50% of the time when it gets into people's bloodstreams, the Broward-Palm Beach New Times reports.

"A person can contract the virus by eating tainted raw shellfish and oysters," a Florida health official says. "And people who swim in seawater who have open wounds are also vulnerable to the bacteria." Symptoms of infection include fever, chills, and skin lesions, the New Times notes, explaining that while many people have probably already swum in bacteria-infested waters and been OK, people with weak immune systems should probably steer clear of Florida waters for now. Researchers say that illnesses caused by Vibrio bacteria are set to rise as the oceans get warmer. (In Oregon recently, a woman contracted another type of flesh-eating bacteria after falling off her bike.)

A medium-hazard flag warns Miami beachgoers to be cautious of moderate surf and currents.
A medium-hazard flag warns Miami beachgoers to be cautious of moderate surf and currents.   (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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