Flesh-eating bacteria alert in the US: Case numbers rise exponentially
Illness and death from a flesh-eating bacterium are increasing exponentially in Florida in the wake of Hurricane Ian. The bacterium Vibrio vulnificus infects people who eat raw seafood or have open wounds exposed to flood waters. Bacteria consuming human flesh around open wounds can result in loss of limbs and death.
Local health officials in the state of Florida, which was destroyed by Hurricane Ian last month in the US, announced that the people of the region now have to deal with the increase in flesh-eating bacterial diseases (Vibrio vulnificus) and deaths.
CASE DOUBLE COMPARED TO LAST YEAR
Lee County, the county hardest hit by flooding after Hurricane Ian, saw 29 confirmed cases and 4 deaths this year infected with the Vibrio vulnificus bacteria, according to the latest official state data. In 2021, only 5 cases and 1 death were recorded in the county. In 2020, there were no cases of flesh-eating bacteria in Lee County. The number of statewide cases of Vibrio vulnificus rose from 34 in 2021 and 36 in 2020 to 65 in 2022.
“Flood waters after a hurricane poses many risks, including infectious diseases such as Vibrio vulnificus. Sewage leaks in coastal waters, such as caused by Hurricane Ian, have increased bacterial levels. People with open wounds or cuts,” Lee County health officials said in a statement. They may be exposed to Vibrio vulnificus through direct contact with sea water.
THERE ARE TWO WAYS TO CONTAIN
However, Vibrio vulnificus is generally found in warm and brackish water. It usually enters a person’s body when they eat raw or undercooked oysters and shellfish, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Bacteria can also infect the skin if an open wound is exposed to warm sea water.
CAN BE FATAL
The Lee County Health Department warned that although anyone can become infected, this infection can be particularly dangerous for people with compromised immune systems. “If Vibrio vulnificus enters someone’s bloodstream, it can cause fatal illness with symptoms such as fever, chills, septic shock and skin blisters,” the agency said.
On the other hand, Vibrio vulnificus is popularly called flesh-eating bacteria. That’s because bacteria can consume the flesh around an open wound, causing necrotizing fasciitis, a serious infection, according to the CDC. The progression of the disease can cause people to lose limbs such as arms and legs.