Vibrio Vulnificus bacteria has killed 10 people in Florida. This year alone, 31 people were infected with the deadly strain. The flesh-eating bacteria thrives in warm salt water, and is similar to cholera.
Health officials say people can become infected by eating tainted shellfish or swimming with open wounds. Those with weakened immune systems are more likely to become seriously ill.
As reported by CBS News, symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and severe abdominal pain. If patients do not seek treatment, the bacteria can infect the bloodstream.
Once the bloodstream is infected, patients may experience more severe symptoms, including fever, chills, blistering, and decreased blood pressure.
Dr. James Oliver has spent years studying the bacteria. While he admits infections can be devastating, he says Vibrio Vulnificus is “normal flora in the water.” He says the number of cases are higher in Florida because the state is surrounded by warm salt water.
Dr. Oliver says most people exposed to the flesh-eating bacteria never become ill. However, people diagnosed with cancer, cirrhosis, diabetes, or a suppressed immune system, should be cautious.
Lee County Health Department spokeswoman Diane Holm says residents and visitors should not be alarmed. She contends this year’s numbers are not unusual. In 2011 Vibrio Vulnificus killed 13 people in Florida. In 2012 the number dropped to nine.
Holm blames increased media attention for the alarm. Several families have shared their stories, as they were unaware of the dangers. They want Florida residents and visitors to be aware of the potential risk.
Patty Konietzky’s husband died within days of becoming infected. As reported by The Salt Lake Tribune, the 59-year-old man had a blister on his skin, which his wife though was an insect bite. Within hours, Patty said her husband “looked like he had been beaten with a baseball bat.”
Mr. Konietzky was admitted to a Florida hospital for treatment. However, less than two days later he was dead. Patty said her husband did not have any medical conditions and he did not have an open wound.
Vibrio Vulnificus can be deadly for some, but health officials say the flesh-eating bacteria is rare. Compared to the number of people who swim and consume shellfish, very few people become ill.
[Image via Flickr]