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Floridians Warned of Flesh-Eating Bacteria Amid National Spike

Amid a nationwide spike in infections, Florida residents are being told to avoid post-Hurricane Idalia floodwaters because of the potential presence of flesh-eating bacteria.

Idalia tore up the Sunshine State’s Gulf coastline late last month, causing $10 billion in property damage and killing at least two people.

Now, local health officials fear there could be a spike in Vibrio vulnificus infections. The bacteria, which normally live in warm seawater, have potentially been carried inland by the hurricane.

“Following a storm, flood waters and standing waters pose health risks, including infectious diseases such as Vibrio vulnificus,” the Florida Department of Health said in a release. “It’s important to take precautions against infection and illness following any storm.”

“It is important to never wade in flood waters or standing water following a storm,” the department continued. “People with open wounds, cuts, or scratches may be exposed to Vibrio vulnificus through direct contact with flood water, sea water, or brackish water. Vibrio vulnificus can also cause disease in those who eat raw or undercooked oysters and shellfish.”

The warning in Florida comes amid a nationwide alert from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC, Vibrio infections have historically been most common in Gulf Coast states; infections in the eastern U.S. have increased eightfold from 1988 to 2018, however, with the northern geographic range of infections increasing nearly 30 miles a year.

From July to August, the United States has experienced above-average coastal sea temperatures and widespread heat waves, with several East Coast states, including Connecticut, New York and North Carolina, reporting severe and fatal Vibrio infections during the same time period.

Jae Williams, the Florida Health Department press secretary, told NBC News that people should treat Vibrio infections with the same amount of respect as they treat “alligators and rattlesnakes.”

Vibrio vulnificus bacteria thrive in warm coastal and brackish waters and can infect people who come into contact with contaminated waters by entering any cuts or abrasions they may have.

Redness and swelling around the infection site can appear within hours of exposure to the bacteria. Without treatment, tissue necrosis and septicemia can follow the initial symptoms, putting patients at risk for limb amputation and death.

Prompt treatment with antibiotics is necessary to improve patient outcomes and severe cases may require surgical removal of necrotic tissues, the CDC said.

There were a record 74 cases and 17 deaths associated with Vibrio infection in Florida last year following Hurricane Ian, according to the Daily Mail. Nearly 40% of the cases were reported in Lee County, which was at the center of Ian’s path.

Nicole Wells

Nicole Wells, a Newsmax general assignment reporter covers news, politics, and culture. She is a National Newspaper Association award-winning journalist.

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https://www.newsmax.com/us/florida-hurricane-idalia-vibrio-vulnificus/2023/09/05/id/1133309 Floridians Warned of Flesh-Eating Bacteria Amid National Spike

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