Flesh-eating bacteria in the Gulf of Mexico have sickened at least three people in the past week, including a 70-year-old woman whose recovery doctors are calling “miraculous,” Gulf Coast News is reporting.
Vibrio Vulnificus is a bacterium that occurs naturally in the warm waters of the Gulf, and appears in higher concentrations in the summer months. Exposure is rare – tens of thousands of people swim in the Gulf of Mexico every summer and don’t contract flesh-eating bacteria – but the risk is increased if you swim with a scrape or an open wound, or if you eat raw oysters, especially during the summer months.
In the case of an unidentified 70-year-old Mississippi woman: she was fishing off of a boat in the waters near Fairhope, Alabama, with her husband, when she pricked the back of her hand when reaching into a bucket of bait – in this case, live shrimp. Three hours later, according to her husband, she was “deathly sick.”
The woman would go on to spend ten days in the hospital, undergoing multiple operations to save her hand. Fortunately, she came through OK, says her husband.
“With all things considered, when you look at the statistics, the doctors keep telling us she’s a miracle. Most people either die or loose [sic] a limb.”
Barbara Gibbs, with the Mobile Health Department, tells WTSP (Tampa) that at least one other case involves someone likely contracting the disease via an open wound. In another case from an unidentified “other state,” the culprit is suspected to be eating raw oysters.
Persons exposed to Vibrio Vulnificus generally start showing symptoms within 24-72 hours of infection. Those symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, blisters around the wounded areas, swelling, and redness. However, if you suspect you’ve been infected, you should get to a doctor immediately: 80 percent of those who contract the bacterium make it through OK if they’re treated immediately. If the disease progresses, it can lead to amputation of the affected limb, or even death.
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, you can protect yourself from Vibrio Vulnificus by avoiding swimming in warm brackish water or salt water if you have any scrapes or open wounds. Further, you should never eat raw oysters, or any other raw shellfish, ever.
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