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CDC warns of flesh-eating bacteria in Gulf waters

Reporter: Emma Heaton Writer: WINK News Digital
Published: Updated:

Warmer water means a higher chance of bacteria, and the CDC has issued a health advisory for a rare deadly bacterial infection.

It can be found in salty Gulf Shore water or brackish water, where salt and freshwater mix.

If you have any open cuts or wounds, doctors and the Department of Health say it’s best to err on the side of caution because, according to the CDC, Vibrio vulnificus is known to cause life-threatening infections.

“I think everybody should be cautious, and they should be aware of their own personal risks,” said Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief medical officer at Lee Health.

Gonsenhauser said caution and awareness are key to preventing Vibrio vulnificus from entering your bloodstream.

The rare bacterial infection can kill.

You can become infected in a couple of different ways: through a wound that comes into contact with the Vibrio bacteria in the water or by eating raw or uncooked food like shellfish.

So far this year, seven people in Florida have died because of the bacteria.

“It’s not particularly common to be actually affected by it. I mean, the vast majority of people who probably at some point have come into contact with, they really don’t end up getting an active infection,” Gonsenhauser said.

But that doesn’t mean it never happens, which is why it’s important to know your risks.

FGCU marine science professor Hidetoshi Urakawa said people who are immunocompromised or go into brackish water with a wound are more susceptible.

“If you have a mosquito bite, then you scratch. That’s a problem there,” Urakawa said.

If you like to fish, be careful, you have more time to be exposed to the bacteria, and if you get a hook stuck in you, that wound could allow the bacteria in.

This is rare, but the CDC said it’s worth a warning after an uptick in cases and deaths.

If you feel like you have a headache, fever or diarrhea after being in the Gulf or in brackish water, see your doctor.

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