As Ebola spreads mercilessly across the world, it appears Florida has a problem that sounds just as awful. As CBS reports, Florida health officials are warning beachgoers about a seawater bacterium that can invade cuts and scrapes to cause flesh-eating disease. At least 11 Floridians have contracted Vibrio vulnificus so far this year and two have died, according to the most recent state data.
Vibrio vulnificus –- a cousin of the bacterium that causes Cholera –- thrives in warm saltwater, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If ingested, it can cause stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea. But it can also infect open wounds and lead to “skin breakdown and ulceration,” according to the CDC.
“Since it is naturally found in warm marine waters, people with open wounds can be exposed to Vibrio vulnificus through direct contact with seawater,” the Florida Department of Health said in a statement.
Florida isn’t the only state to report Vibrio vulnificus infections. Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi have also recorded cases, and a 2013 outbreak linked to contaminated shellfish sickened at least 104 people in 13 states, according to the CDC.
The CDC's advice:
- Avoid exposing open wounds to warm saltwater, brackish water or to raw shellfish
- Wear protective clothing when handling raw shellfish
- Cook shellfish thoroughly and avoid food contamination with juices from raw seafood
- Eat shellfish promptly after cooking and refrigerate leftovers