What Is Vibrio Vulnificus? Flesh-Eating Salt Water Bacteria Infects 31 In Florida

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Because of Florida’s warm waters, the state sees the largest number of vibrio vulnificus cases in the U.S. each year. But the bacteria can be found in water worldwide, usually in estuaries and near the coast.

Florida health officials are encouraging the state’s residents not to be alarmed following another death from the flesh-eating bacteria Vibrio vulnificus.

The rare bacteria that thrives in saltwater has killed 10 people in Florida this year, while 31 people in all have been infected with the bacteria there. According to health officials, people can be infected by eating raw, tainted shellfish or when warm seawater comes in contact with an open an wound.

However, Diane Holm, a state health department representative in Lee County said people should not panic over the bacteria. “This is nothing abnormal. We don’t believe there is any greater risk for someone to swim in the Gulf [of Mexico] today than there was yesterday or 10 years ago,” Holm told the Associated Press.

Vibrio vulnificus is a member of the same family of bacteria that cause cholera. Symptoms of infection can include diarrhea, extreme abdominal pain and vomiting. If the bacteria enter the bloodstream, symptoms can worsen to include fever, blistering and lowered blood pressure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

A 59-year-old man in Palm Coast, Fla., became the latest Vibrio vulnificus victim last month after he died just a few days following his infection. What Henry Konietzky believed to be a bug bite on his ankle turned out to be a bacterial infection. His wife, Patty Konietzky, took him to the hospital. But he soon died from the spreading infection, anyway. According to health officials, people with compromised immune systems are at the highest risk of being affected by Vibrio vulnificus.

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