Florida and Texas Officials Warn Of Bacteria In Beaches, But Urge People To ‘Not Panic’

Editor’s note: a previous version of this story originally noted, incorrectly, that 43 percent of the Texas Vibrio cases originated with contact with the waters around South Padre Island. The Inquisitr’s editorial staff regret this error.

The Florida Health Department issued a swimming advisory warning this week to beach-goers in the panhandle area of Florida after samples of the flesh-eating bacteria, Vibrio, was found in the waters. Numerous beachgoers in Texas have also come into contact with bacteria, but officials are asking people to stay calm as the incidents are not increasing.

According to the Florida Bureau of Environmental Health’s Water Programs, at least six beaches in Okaloosa County and two beaches in Walton County were found to contain Vibrio vulnificus bacteria, also known as “flesh-eating bacteria.” The bacteria doesn’t actually eat the flesh, but causes blisters and sores, resulting in the skin breaking down easily.

The no swimming advisory is currently in effect for the following:

Miramar County Beaches

  • Blue Mountain Beach
  • County Park Beach

Okaloosa County Beaches

  • Garniers Park
  • Poquito Park
  • East Pass
  • Rocky Bayou State Park
  • Clement E. Taylor Park
  • Henderson Beach

The Department of Health in Okaloosa County (DOH) stated that the aforementioned county beaches also tested positive for Enterococci, which is not a flesh-eating bacteria.

” Enterococci is bacteria that normally inhabits the intestinal tract of humans and animals. It may cause human disease, infections, or rashes, but for the vast majority of people, the risk of serious illness is minimal. An otherwise healthy person may have no problems with contact with the water of a beach that is under advisory.”

“Some may experience a minor inflammation of a cut, a mild sore throat or mild diarrhea after exposure to water from a beach under a health advisory. The greatest risk is for very young children, the elderly and people who have compromised immune systems since their ability to fight off infection is limited by age or disease.”

More About Vibrio Vulnificus

Vibrio vulnificus is a rare disease that’s most often contracted in warm marine waters. People with open wounds and cuts are the most susceptible to the virus, but it can affect anyone who comes in contact with it. Eating raw oysters can also result in exposure to the virus. There’s no record of the Vibrio vulnificus being spread from human to human contact.

When the skin is exposed to the virus, it will start to break down and may lead to ulcers. Those who have a weakened immune system or a pre-existing medical condition, especially chronic liver disease, are at risk of developing life-threatening side effects from the bacteria, with symptoms including vomiting, fever, chills, blisters, skin lesions, and septic shock. Healthy individuals are also at risk of serious health issues, but in most instances, the virus is mild, although it may cause bouts of diarrhea.

Regardless if you’re healthy or not, you should always seek medical attention if you think you came into contact with the bacteria. Antibiotics are the most commonly prescribed treatment for Vinio vulnificus, along with plenty of liquids, particularly water, to help replenish lost fluids.

Texas Beaches and Bacteria

KRGV reports that 28 people in Texas have come in contact with Vibrio bacteria, with 43 percent of those cases occurring in people who’ve come in contact with Gulf Coast waters. Texas General Land Office (GLO) spokesperson Brittany Eck indicated that swimming in any warm body of water carries the risk of coming in contact with the bacteria.

“There is a risk associated with swimming in warm bodies of water, including oceans, bays, rivers and lakes. However, the risk of coming into contact with the bacteria in Texas is low, but precautions should always be taken. If you have liver disease, a weakened immune system, or open cuts and sores, you are at a higher risk of contacting bacteria. The warmer the water is, the higher the chances of contact.”

In the meantime, Galveston County Health District spokesperson Scott Packard urges people not to panic. The majority of people who enjoy Florida and Texas beaches are safe. He also indicated that the cases of Vibrio contact are not increasing, although many media outlets are leading people to believe so.

“What we have right now is an example of stories in the media, stories online that are not painting a comprehensive picture of what this bacteria is. This is unfortunate that the media is leading people to believe that there is an increase in Vibrio …that is simply not the case.”

[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]