The state of Florida in the United States has recorded a record number of cases of a deadly bacteria that lurks in the salty waters after floods. The population of a Florida county that was devastated by Hurricane Ian last month is experiencing a surge in illnesses and deaths due to a “flesh-eating” bacteria.
In Lee County, where the storm made landfall on September 28th, authorities have recorded 29 illnesses and four deaths due to the Vibrio vulnificus bacteria. Almost all cases were diagnosed after the passage of the hurricane.
People can become infected with Vibrio vulnificus after the bacteria enter the body through open wounds or cuts. The bacteria live in warm, salty water, such as stagnant water after a flood.
An abnormal increase in cases
“The Florida Department of Health in Lee County is observing an abnormal increase in cases of Vibrio vulnificus infections as a result of exposure to flooding and standing water after Hurricane Ian,” a department spokesperson said Monday. county health.
A statement from the department asks residents to be aware of the “potential risks associated with exposing open wounds, cuts, or skin scrapes to warm, brackish, or salt water.”
“Sewage spills, such as those caused by Hurricane Ian, can increase bacteria levels,” the statement added. “As the post-storm situation evolves, people should take precautions against infection and illness caused by Vibrio vulnificus.”
Collier County, just south of Lee County, also had three confirmed cases that officials say are storm-related. In Florida, there have been a record 11 confirmed deaths attributed to the bacteria this year and a total of 65 cases, according to state health data. Authorities estimate that almost half are related to Hurricane Ian. In 2021 there were 10 deaths and 34 cases in Florida. Seven deaths were attributed to the bacteria in 2020.
Vibrio vulnificus is known as a “flesh-eating” bacteria because it can develop into necrotizing fasciitis, a condition that causes tissues to break down. But it’s not the only bacteria that can cause necrotizing fasciitis.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in five Vibrio vulnificus patients die, sometimes just a day or two after becoming ill. The bacteria can also cause sepsis, a life-threatening reaction to an infection, if it enters the bloodstream, and can sometimes require amputations to prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body.