Florida health officials have started warning people about Vibrio bacteria that has been found in the state’s waters. If the bacteria enters the body through an open wound or cut, it can cause flesh-eating disease.
Vibrio vulnificus lives in warm seawater, explained the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It can cause nasty symptoms if ingested, such as vomiting and stomach pain, but can eat a person’s flesh if it enters the body through an open wound.
“Since it is naturally found in warm marine waters, people with open wounds can be exposed to Vibrio vulnificus through direct contact with seawater,” said the Florida Department of Health in a statement.
So far this year, 11 people have contracted the bacteria. Last year, 41 people were infected, and 11 people died. However, the summer is not yet over, and more people might become infected by the Vibrio bacteria, which is why Florida officials are issuing warnings.
“A person can contract the virus by eating tainted raw shell fish and oysters,” said Pamela Crane, Florida Department of Health Deputy press secretary. “And people who swim in seawater who have open wounds are also vulnerable to the bacteria.”
The CDC has advised people with cuts or open wounds to avoid going into seawater. They have also said to handle raw shellfish properly by wearing protective clothing. Always make sure the shellfish are fully cooked before consuming them, the CDC noted, as this could prevent becoming infected by the Vibrio bacteria.
To be clear, Florida is not advising people to avoid the water and stay away from beaches. Instead, health officials are just telling people to be vigilant.
To learn more about the flesh-eating Vibrio vulnificus, go to the CDC’s website.