The threat of flesh-eating bacteria in Florida waters has started turning beachgoers away. Authorities have issued safety reports warning all tourists to avoid bathing in warm saltwater if they have cuts, scrapes or open wounds as they may become infected with the deadly bacteria.
So far, eight people became infected with vibrio vulnificus, two of which died. The Florida Health Department warns that infections are extremely grave especially since the bacteria lurks in most warm seawater.
Upon epidemiological analysis, the Florida Health Department discovered that one of the two patients that had died had been exposed to seafood prior to becoming sick. The other had had multiple exposures.
Apart from direct contact (via skin lesions and open wounds), people may also become infected with the flesh-eating bacteria by consuming raw seafood (especially shellfish and oysters). In such cases, patients display the usual symptoms of food poisoning such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting.
The situation is completely different when, instead of being ingested, the bacteria comes in contact with cuts or wounds. It may cause skin ulcers which spread uncontrollably (hence the name flesh-eating bacteria). In advanced cases of tissue necrosis, amputation may represent the only viable option of saving a patient’s life.
Though healthy people experience mild symptoms and can be treated with antibiotic therapy, immuno-compromised patients face a far greater risk (infections in such cases may prove fatal).
In addition to the Florida Health Department’s recommendations, the CDC also released a list of suggestions concerning the management of the infection and avoiding it altogether.
Florida waters are the ideal growth medium for vibrio vulnificus, as the bacteria thrives in temperatures of 68 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit and in saltwater.
Among the precautions one can take in order to limit the exposure to the bacteria, the CDC includes proper seafood preparation (thorough cooking and boiling). Additionally, oysters should be fried at temperatures over 375 degrees.
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