Florida Sees Spike in Cases of Flesh-Eating Bacteria Infections After Hurricane Ian

Katabella Roberts
By Katabella Roberts
October 19, 2022Healthshare
Florida Sees Spike in Cases of Flesh-Eating Bacteria Infections After Hurricane Ian
Dean T. Davis 3rd, (L) and Dean T. Davis Jr. cook outdoors since their house has no electricity in Fort Myers, Fla., on Oct. 7, 2022. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Florida has experienced a rise in the number of cases of deadly flesh-eating bacteria following Hurricane Ian and chronic flooding, officials have said.

According to the Florida Department of Health, there have been 65 cases of Vibrio vulnificus infection and 11 deaths in the state this year as of Oct. 19. Throughout the entirety of 2021, there were 34 cases of the infection and 10 deaths reported across the state.

Of those 65 cases, 29 were confirmed in Lee County alone, prompting the Florida Department of Health to warn residents of the risks posed by Vibrio vulnificus on Oct. 3.

Collier County, which is located just south of Lee County, has also recorded three confirmed cases of the infection.

The increase in the number of cases of the infection is being driven by flood and standing waters following hurricane Ian, the Category 4 storm that hit on Sept. 28, according to officials.

Vibrio vulnificus infection is a bacterium that occurs naturally in warm brackish water, which is a mixture of fresh and salt water.

It is part of a group of vibrios that are called “halophilic” because they require salt, according to officials. Infections, while rare, can be caused after bacteria enter the body through fresh open cuts or scrapes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Vibrio vulnificus infections can be life-threatening, and many people who are diagnosed with the infection require intensive care or, in some cases, limb amputations if the infection enters the bloodstream and causes sepsis.

Roughly one in five people with this infection die, according to the CDC, sometimes within just days of displaying symptoms.

US-WEATHER-HURRICANE-IAN
A broken section of the Pine Island Road in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Matlacha, Fla., on Oct. 1, 2022. (Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images)

Immunocompromised at Increased Risk

Symptoms include watery diarrhea, stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, and fever. Individuals suffering from a bloodstream infection may additionally exhibit chills, dangerously low blood pressure, and blistering skin lesions.

Those with wound infections may also experience redness, pain, swelling, warmth, discoloration, and discharge.

While anyone can get sick from vibriosis, individuals who are immunocompromised are at higher risk of severe illness and death from the infection, according to the CDC. That includes people who have chronic liver disease or those who take medications that lower the body’s ability to fight germs.

Vibrio vulnificus is not spread person-to-person.

The CDC estimates that 80,000 people become sick with vibriosis, and 100 people die from their infection in the United States annually.

On Monday, a spokesperson at the county health department told the BBC, “The Florida Department of Health in Lee County is observing an abnormal increase in cases of Vibrio vulnificus infections as a result of exposure to the floodwaters and standing waters following Hurricane Ian.”

The spokesperson also urged residents to “always be aware of the potential risks associated when exposing open wounds, cuts, or scratches on the skin to warm, brackish, or salt water.”

“Sewage spills, like those caused by Hurricane Ian, may increase bacteria levels,” the statement continued. “As the post-storm situation evolves, individuals should take precautions against infection and illness caused by Vibrio vulnificus.”

Anyone who may have been exposed to Vibrio vulnificus and is experiencing symptoms is being urged to seek immediate medical attention.

From The Epoch Times

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