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Beware of flesh-eating bacteria in Florida waters

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Just when swimming helps to keep us cool during this hot summer, we now have a harmful bacteria in Florida waters to be careful of. According to Florida Today on July 31, 2014, health officials are warning bathers to beware of ocean (or any warm water) swimming due to a flesh-eating bacteria that is harboring this summer. The bacteria, called Vibrio vulnificus is a necrotizing fascilitis that lives in warm, salty waters.

So far, 41 cases of this bacteria has been reported in the state this year, and 11 of these cases have been due to swimming with open wounds and also consuming raw shellfish, especially oysters, that have been obtained from these waters. There have also been several deaths.

When Vibrio vulnificus enters the body it can cause skin breakdown and ulcers. If it is ingested symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Right now health officials are warning people with open wounds (even a small ant bite or pimple), a compromised immune system, or chronic liver disease to stay out of the warm waters of the ocean this summer.

If you have been in Florida waters, especially in the Gulf of Mexico where two people in Sarasota County have been ill (one death) with this bacteria, contact your doctor or nearest emergency room if you have come down with these symptoms. Cultures of wounds and blood may need to be taken and the appropriate antibiotic therapy administered.

Florida is not the only state that has this problem, although it has received the most media in the past few days. At least 33 other states and especially the Gulf Coast states have been monitoring the waters. Between 1988 and 2006, there have been reports of more than 900 cases by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) from the states surrounding the Gulf of Mexico where most cases are noted.

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