Florida Officials Warning Swimmers Of Flesh-Eating Bacteria Responsible For 2 Deaths This Year

Beach season is a welcome time of the year for swimmers and sunbathers, but along with the warm weather comes warm water, and a potential health hazard: Florida health officials are issuing their yearly warning to swimmers (and diners) about the dangers of a flesh-eating bacteria that’s caused two deaths already this year.

The Florida Department of Health said there have been eight infections and two deaths reported in 2015 from the bacterium vibrio vulnificus, which thrives in salty warm water.

There are two ways you can contract vibrio vulnificus — through swimming in infected water with an open wound or by eating raw shellfish contaminated with the bacteria. It is not contagious.

“Of the two, one patient had raw seafood exposure and one had multiple exposures prior to onset of symptoms,” a Florida Department of Health spokesperson said.

Last year in Florida there were 32 vibrio cases and seven deaths — however, officials say the disease often goes underreported.

“Ingestion of Vibrio vulnificus can cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain,” the Florida DOH states on its website. “The bacterium can invade the bloodstream, causing a severe and life-threatening illness with symptoms like fever, chills, decreased blood pressure (septic shock) and blistering skin lesions.”

Health officials warn people who have open wounds or a weakened immune system not to go swimming or enter the water, noting that a normally healthy person without open cuts or wounds won’t be at risk. Though it can also make you sick if you eat undercooked or raw food, it’s especially harmful and potentially lethal when it gets in the bloodstream.

Swimmers should also rinse off with before going home as well, officials suggest.

Although vibrio vulnificus is often referred to as a “flesh-eating” bacteria because of the way it breaks down the skin and causes blistering lesions when people with open wounds come into contact with it, it doesn’t meet the official classification of a flesh-eating bacteria, UPI notes, citing health officials.

Health officials: Rare sea bacteria kills 2 in Florida [UPI]

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