Florida health officials are cautioning visitors to the state’s beaches about the threat of a flesh-eating bacteria lurking in warm seawater this summer.
Vibrio vulnificus propagates in warm water and can cause stomachache, vomiting and diarrhea if swallowed, according to the CDC.
11 people have already been infected with Vibrio vulnificus this year, and two have died. Last year, 41 people contracted the illness in the state and 11 died. Similar outbreaks have occurred in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
Officials have stressed that most people who contract Vibrio vulnificus will recover after taking antibiotics. If it enters an open wound, “skin breakdown and ulceration” can also occur, and in cases where the illness becomes “flesh-eating,” surgery and even amputation may be needed.
According to the CDC, you can protect yourself by:
- Keeping open wounds away from warm saltwater, brackish water or shellfish
- Wearing protective clothing if you handle raw shellfish
- Cooking all shellfish thoroughly
- Not letting shellfish “juices” drip onto other food
- Immediately refrigerating unused shellfish