Just when Floridians thought it might be a great time to spend an end-of- summer weekend at the beach, taking a dip in the still-warm ocean or savoring a plate of raw oysters, Department of Health officials are warning residents that exposure to certain bacteria in local seawater could be deadly.
According to the latest statistic, Vibrio vulnificans has already infected at least 26 people statewide, killing nine.
This particular bacteria enters the body through open wounds while swimming or wading in infected waters, through puncture wounds from the spines of infected fish such as tilapia, or through ingestion of raw or undercooked shellfish that are filter feeders such as oysters, clams, mussels, and whole scallops. The bacteria and other contaminants concentrate in their systems as they filter seawater.
It is important to know that Vibrio vulnificans does not alter the appearance, taste or odor of shellfish, so there is no way to know whether it is contaminated before eating it.
Like its relative Vibrio cholerae which causes cholera, Vibrio vulnificus produces diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Unlike its cousin, however, it also causes a blistering inflammation of the skin.
Authorities in Flagler and Volusia counties are now advising residents to avoid eating raw shellfish and exposing open wounds in seawater.
The latest Floridian to die was a 59 year old fisherman who had been fishing for crabs in the Halifax River.Within hours he noticed blistering lesions on his legs and went to the emergency room. However, the bacteria had already spread through his bloodstream, resulting in kidney shutdown.
Two of the other fatal cases were reported in Volusia county, one in Brevard and three in Hillsborough. So far no further details have been given by DOH officials.
-Avoid eating raw shellfish
-Avoid swimming if you have an open wound
-Avoid cross-contamination of cooking utensils, cutting and cooking surfaces when preparing shellfish and protect skin from cuts during the process
-If you have an infected wound after swimming in warm seawater or become ill after eating raw seafood, consult a doctor immediately since the disease has as much as a 50 percent fatality rate once it reaches the blood stream. Antibiotics improve the chances for survival.
For more information about Vibrio vulnificans