What You Need to Know About Flesh Eating Bacteria

Our gulf coast of Florida has been in the news recently and it’s not about tourism or our beaches.  It is the outbreak of flesh-eating bacteria that has sickened residents and tourists alike.

It’s called necrotizing fascitis-a rapidly spreading condition caused by a “flesh-eating” bacteria that destroys tissues in infection areas – from the Gulf. The bacteria associated with the condition is Vibrio vulnificus, a naturally occurring bacteria found in warm salty water such as the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding bays. Concentrations of the bacteria are higher when the water is warmer.

Necrotizing fasciitis and severe infections from Vibrio vulnificus are rare, health officials said.

These infections can be treated with antibiotics and sometimes require surgery to remove damaged tissue. Rapid diagnosis is the key to effective treatment and recovery,” the health department said. “If you are health with a strong immune system, your chances of developing or having complications due to this condition are extremely low.”

Headed to the Gulf and want to protect yourself against water-borne bacteria? Here’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Health Department recommends:

  • Avoid open bodies of water, such as the Gulf, pools and hot tubs if you have breaks in your skin, including cuts, scrapes, burns, insect bites, puncture wounds or surgical wounds.
  • Keep open wounds covered with clean, dry bandages until healed and don’t delay first aid for even minor wounds like blisters or scrapes.
  • If you have an open wound, avoid walking, sitting or swimming in the Gulf or bay.
  • Clean and treat wounds with warm water and soap if you accidentally expose a wound to Gulf or Bay waters or injure yourself while cleaning or handling seafood.
  • Seek medical treatment if you develop signs or symptoms of infection, such as redness, swelling, fever, or severe pain in an area of red or swollen skin.
  • People with the greatest risk of exposure to bacteria in water bodies, pools or hot tubs are very young children, people age 64 and older and people with chronic diseases or weakened immune systems.
  • Let your health care provider know if you have been exposed to the water and developed an infection.

If you contract this, it’s painful and may require hospitalization.

More than half a dozen cases of flesh-eating bacteria, including three that were fatal, have been linked to the Gulf of Mexico in the past several months.

The Gulf’s water and surrounding bays, warm and rich in nutrients, are perfect homes for bacteria that can cause necrotizing fasciitis, the formal name for flesh-eating bacteria.

With climate change warming the world’s oceans, these infections will become more frequent and be found in a wider range of places, the authors of a report in the Annals of Internal Medicine said.

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