Flesh-eating bacteria cases in Florida have surged in the wake of Hurricane Ian, with 65 cases recorded state-wide, authorities say
- Cases of illness and death from a flesh-eating bacteria are rising in Florida after Hurricane Ian.
- Vibrio vulnificus can infect people who eat raw seafood or have open wounds exposed to seawater.
Residents of the Florida county ravaged by Hurricane Ian now also have to contend with a rise in cases of flesh-eating bacteria illnesses and deaths, local health officials say.
Lee County has seen 29 confirmed cases and four deaths from the bacteria Vibrio vulnificus this year, according to the latest official state data from Friday. In 2021, only five cases and one death was recorded, and Lee County had no infections in 2020. The number of Vibrio vulnificus cases statewide has risen to 65 in 2022, up from 34 in 2021 and 36 in 2020.
"Flood waters and standing waters following a hurricane pose many risks, including infectious diseases such as Vibrio vulnificus," the Lee County Department of Health wrote in an October 3 notice.
"Sewage spills in coastal waters, like those caused by Hurricane Ian, may increase bacteria levels. People with open wounds, cuts, or scratches can be exposed to Vibrio vulnificus through direct contact with sea water or brackish water," the notice said.
Vibrio vulnificus is typically found in warm, brackish water. It usually enters a human's body when they eat raw or undercooked oysters and shellfish, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.
The bacteria can also infect skin if an open wound is exposed to warm sea water.
An infection can be especially severe to people with weaker immune systems, though anyone can get infected, the Lee County Department of Health said. If Vibrio vulnificus enters someone's bloodstream, it can cause deadly illness with symptoms such as fever, chills, septic shock, and skin blisters.
The bacteria is dubbed "flesh-eating" because it can lead to necrotizing fasciitis, a severe infection when the flesh around an open wound dies, per the CDC. Notably, Vibrio vulnificus is not the only bacteria that can cause this affliction.
In one grisly case, a 71-year-old South Korean man had to get his left forearm amputated after contracting Vibrio vulnificus from eating seafood, Insider previously reported. He'd also been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, and high blood pressure beforehand.
Vibrio vulnificus can't be spread from person to person. To avoid an infection, residents should stay out of floodwaters or standing water if they have any open cuts, scratches, or wounds, the Lee County Department of Health said.
If someone with those injuries has been in contact with floodwater, they should immediately clean their wounds or cuts with soap and clean water, the authorities wrote. A waterproof bandage to cover wounds can also help.
Signs of the bacteria infection include a wound turning red, swelling, or oozing, and other symptoms of infection like fever, increasing pain, shortness of breath, a high heart rate, or disorientation, the health official said.
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