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Rare Flesh-Eating Bacteria Kills 8; What You Need To Know In VIRGINIA

VIRGINIA, (Qnnflash) – Health authorities are issuing a cautionary alert regarding an uncommon but concerning flesh-eating bacterium known as Vibrio vulnificus, which has claimed the lives of at least eight individuals along the East Coast this summer.

Connecticut and Long Island each reported two fatalities, while an additional person succumbed to the infection, as revealed by health officials. Florida, on the other hand, has witnessed a total of five deaths this year, according to state health authorities.

Although Vibrio infections are often linked to the consumption of raw or undercooked oysters and seafood, the bacteria can also be contracted through contact with seawater or brackish water in the presence of open wounds or cuts. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) underscores that Vibrio is one of the top three pathogens responsible for waterborne illnesses, alongside Giardia and Cryptosporidium, as stated by the Virginia Department of Health.

While wound infections due to Vibrio vulnificus are not commonly reported in Virginia, the bacterium is present in the ocean, Chesapeake Bay, and adjoining rivers, as per the VDH. Vibrio can also trigger ear infections. To minimize the risk of waterborne bacteria exposure or disease transmission, VDH advises swimmers to refrain from swimming when experiencing diarrhea, avoid ingesting pool water or natural water sources like rivers and lakes, and take precautions to shield cuts or open wounds from brackish water.

Connecticut saw three individuals hospitalized due to Vibrio vulnificus infections, of which two cases were wound-related and not linked to seafood consumption. The third infection involved a Connecticut resident who consumed raw oysters at an out-of-state establishment.

Labeling the bacteria as “extraordinarily dangerous,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul made this assertion following a death resulting from the infection on Long Island.

People infected with Vibrio vulnificus frequently require intensive care or even limb amputation, with a mortality rate of approximately one in five, often occurring within a day or two of onset, according to the CDC. The most vulnerable groups are individuals with compromised immune systems and the elderly. Some Vibrio vulnificus infections may lead to necrotizing fasciitis, a severe condition where the flesh surrounding an open wound deteriorates, thereby earning it the “flesh-eating bacteria” epithet. The CDC notes that necrotizing fasciitis can be attributed to multiple types of bacteria.

Signs and symptoms of Vibrio vulnificus infection may include:

  • Watery diarrhea, accompanied by stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and fever.
  • For bloodstream infections: fever, chills, dangerously low blood pressure, and skin lesions with blisters.
  • For wound infections, which might spread: fever, redness, pain, swelling, warmth, discoloration, and discharge.

The CDC recommends the following precautions:

  • Refrain from consuming raw or undercooked oysters and shellfish.
  • If you have a wound (including post-surgery, piercing, or tattoo), avoid saltwater or brackish water, if feasible. This includes wading in beach water.
  • Cover wounds with waterproof bandages if they could come into contact with saltwater, brackish water, marine life, or raw/undercooked seafood and its juices.
  • Thoroughly cleanse wounds and cuts with soap and water after exposure to saltwater, brackish water, marine life, raw seafood, or its juices.

Apart from natural occurrences in warm coastal waters, Vibrio vulnificus infections have also been associated with hurricanes, storm surges, and coastal flooding.

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