How to avoid dangerous bacterium and amoeba in Tampa Bay water

Ever wondered what is lurking in the warm waters of Florida in July and August? 
 
You’ll often find bacteria, one variety of which can be deadly in the right circumstances.
 
“Vibrio Vulnificus is a bacterium that grows rapidly in warm salty waters,” said Warren McDougle, the epidemiology manager for the Florida Health Department Hillsborough County. 
 
It can cause issues in both oysters and in the open wounds in swimmers. Fishermen can  come into contact with it if they reel in a fish and cut their hand on it.
 
Vibrio Vulnificus can cause infections that are tough to treat.
 
“If you ingest it and you are immune-compromised or have liver disease, it can cause death pretty quickly,” McDougle said.
 
With so many areas of shallow, salty water, Hillsborough County’s officials are worried about this variety of bacteria the most. They see about 10 cases of it a year, mostly in the summer. One recorded case occurred in May.
 
McDougle said here are the symptoms to watch out for.
 
“It starts out kind of like a food borne illness type thing, with some vomiting and diarrhea, but very quickly you become very ill and very weak and you can become very septic, very fast. Medical attention is warranted immediately,” McDougle said.
 
What can you do?  Keep brackish and salty water away from open wounds. Wear waders when fishing. And don't eat raw shellfish.
 
For those of you that prefer swimming in fresh water lakes, an amoeba could be lurking in the muddy bottom.
 
“It gets stirred up with people playing around and splashing, and it's floating in the water,” McDougle said. “And then when the kids, especially young people, jump in feet first, and they force water up their nose –
that's when the amoeba can go up the nose and get to the brain and can cause very serious illness and even death.”
 
In 2011 a Hillsborough County boy died after water skiing in a Polk county lake. The best defense against this threat is to use nose plugs when playing in the warm fresh water.
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