The U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a warning to beachgoers in Florida about a deadly bacteria in the seawater that has already claimed two lives. The bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, can infect people who swallow seawater and it can enter the body through open wounds or ulcers, the CDC report said.
“People with underlying health problems and people who are immune-compromised, especially those with chronic liver disease, are at higher risk,” said Florida's state epidemiologist, Carina Blackmore, Ph.D. People with cancer, kidney disorders, and diseases such as HIV are also at higher risk of being infected.
Symptoms of the disease include flu, vomiting, diarrhea, swelling and pain in parts of the skin that have been infected by the bacteria. “The bacteria don’t actually consume the flesh, said Blackmore. "The bacteria have toxins that are destroying the cells in the tissue. The cells end up dying from the toxin exposure.”
Two people in Florida have died and 11 others have been infected with the deadly bacteria. According to the CDC, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama and Mississippi have also seen outbreaks of the bacteria.
Florida residents have also been warned about eating raw shellfish, which can be a source of Vibrio vulnificus.
Fortunately, people who recover from Vibrio vulnificus do not suffer from long-term effects.
If an infected person does not seek medical treatment immediately, the deadly bacterium starts breaking down the flesh of its victim. Antibiotics can treat Vibrio vulnificus, but the victim may require surgery or even amputation if the spread of the disease is not checked. Dosage and duration of treatment varies, with most lasting 14 days.
The bacteria thrives in the warm saltwater that surrounds the coastal states.