State of Florida warns beachgoers about dangerous bacteria, vibrio vulnificus; 10 deaths reported

ABC Action News has confirmed that there was a death in Sarasota County from a saltwater bacteria.

Now, the state is warning beachgoers of the potential danger that thrives in warm water.
Eleven people in Florida this year have been infected with the bacterium that can cause a disease known as vibrio vulnificus, ABC News reports .
It's a cousin of the bacterium that causes Cholera and it thrives in warm saltwater.
The disease is not Necrotizing Fascititis, another flesh-eating bacteria that has made headlines in recent years,
according to health officials. Vibrio Vulnificus is known more as a disease that attacks people with weak immune systems or liver disease, which the Sarasota victim had.
"Since it is naturally found in warm marine waters, people with open wounds can be exposed to Vibrio vulnificus through direct contact with seawater," the Florida Department of Health said in a statement. 
Two of those infected have died, ABC reports, citing state data.
The disease can also spread through shellfish.
In 2013 41 people were infected and 11 died, according to the report. Infections have also been found along the gulf coast in Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi.
Many recover with the help of antibiotics.
To avoid infection, the CDC recommends:
  • Avoid exposing open wounds to warm saltwater, brackish water or to raw shellfish
  • If handling raw shellfish, wear protective clothing and cook the shellfish thoroughly.
  • Eat any shellfish soon after preparing it and refrigerate the leftovers.
Steve Gyland, owner of a South Florida fish market, is all too familiar with the impact the Vibrio bacterium can have on someone, he survived it.
"It was like you were on fire. Like a burn-blister from a fire. It was weeks before I could walk on that leg," said Gyland.
On a scuba diving trip to the Bahamas, Gyland contracted it through a blister on his left foot.
Had he waited, Gyland believes it could have been worse.
"You could just watch the red, blistery skin just grow and expand and move up your leg," said Gyland.
But Gyland also sells an item at his market that the state health department warns is a leading cause of contracting the Vibrio bacteria, raw oysters.
"If we eat raw foods, there's always a risk, absolutely there's a risk," said Gyland.
Gyland said he posts warning all over his store and suggests people who are worried should buy oysters from cooler climates to the north.


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