Flesh-Eating Bacteria Hits 5 in Chesapeake

One woman spends a month recovering after getting infected during kayak trip

By Shelley Hazen,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 7, 2014 9:45 AM CDT | Updated Aug 7, 2014 10:07 AM CDT

(Newser) – A Maryland woman is lucky after a "wee beastie" invaded a cut on her foot while she enjoyed the waters of the Patuxent River, a tributary of Chesapeake Bay. The aggressive, flesh-eating Vibrio vulnificus bacteria multiply in warm weather and can cause skin and blood infections and intestinal illness, reports the Baltimore Sun. Elisavietta Ritchie’s husband made her go to the ER when her leg became swollen—one of the symptoms of a vibrio infection. "It can spread very quickly and become very dangerous in a short period of time," say health officials, according to WTVR. Symptoms like skin redness, ulcers, and swelling can turn into limb amputations and even be fatal, reports Bay Net. Ritchie has spent a month recovering from her infection.

There have been five vibrio cases this year in the Chesapeake and its tributaries, the Sun reports, including a 66-year-old man who almost lost a leg. Last year, 57 people were infected in Maryland—a 10-year high. Warmer waters and pollution may be partially to blame for the bacteria's prevalence, according to a Chesapeake Bay Foundation report. A river keeper tells the Sun he’s seen a few bacteria count spikes after heavy rains this summer—also a factor. Vibrio can be caught by swimming in the water with a fresh, uncovered cut; you can also get it by eating infected oysters and clams, which causes stomach illness. (Flesh-eating bacteria are also hitting beachgoers in the south.)

Pelicans are seen in a sand bar from the research vessel Kerhin on the Chesapeake, Thursday Nov. 1,  2012.
Pelicans are seen in a sand bar from the research vessel Kerhin on the Chesapeake, Thursday Nov. 1, 2012.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
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