5 Die in Florida From 'Flesh-Eating Bacteria'

Officials say 26 Vibrio vulnificus cases have been detected in state this year
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2023 4:13 PM CDT
'Flesh-Eating Bacteria' Kills 5 in Florida
"Water and wounds do not mix," Florida Health warns.   (Getty Images/Dr_Microbe)

The "flesh-eating bacteria" Vibrio vulnificus has infected at least 26 people in Florida so far this year and killed five of them, officials say. The victims were mostly in the Tampa Bay area, WESH reports. Officials say The bacteria, found in warm, brackish water as well as raw or undercooked seafood, killed two people in Hillsborough County, one in Sarasota County, one in Polk County, and one in Pasco County. Last year, the state recorded 74 cases and 17 deaths. The numbers were abnormally high in 2022 because Hurricane Ian spilled sewage into the water in the Lee County area, Fox News notes.

"Living in Florida, being around the marine environment, we need to be aware of what it is," says Dr. Eric Shamas, an emergency medicine physician. "Whenever you have a break in the skin and you're in a marine environment, then theoretically you're at risk," Shamas says, adding that "it's very important to keep in mind these severe infections are very rare." Florida's health department says people with fresh cuts and scrapes should stay out of warm, brackish water and people who are immunocompromised "should wear proper foot protection to prevent cuts and injury caused by rocks and shells on the beach."

The virus recently killed three people in New York and Connecticut. A person in Connecticut whose infection was linked to raw out-of-state oysters survived. USA Today notes that Vibrio vulnificus, which gets its name from the Latin word for "to wound," kills tissue but doesn't eat it. It can cause necrotizing fasciitis, killing the flesh around an infection site, when it enters the body through a cut or wound. (More flesh-eating bacteria stories.)

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