Florida Flesh-Eating Bacteria Cases Spike After Hurricane Ian

Vibrio vulnificus

CORAL GABLES, Florida – Florida has seen a spike in cases of the flesh-eating bacteria Vibrio vulnificus after Hurricane Ian hit the Sunshine State.

The biggest spike in cases has been in Lee County where Hurricane Ian made landfall in Southwest Florida.

According to the Florida Department of Health, 29 cases of Vibrio vulnificus, including 4 deaths, have occurred in Lee County alone.

Statewide, 65 cases, including 11 deaths, have occurred in 2022 compared to just 34 cases in 2021.

Vibrio vulnificus is a naturally occurring bacteria in warm, brackish seawater that can consume human flesh, and cause severe illness, even death.

Persons who have wounds, cuts, or scratches and wade in estuarine areas or seawater where the bacteria might be present can become ill.

Symptoms of Vibrio vulnificus in wound infections typically include swelling, pain, and redness at the wound site.

Other symptoms of Vibrio vulnificus infection include; nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, chills, and the formation of blistering skin lesions. Individuals experiencing these symptoms should contact a physician immediately for diagnosis and treatment.

A recent study showed that people with these pre-existing medical conditions were 80 times more likely to develop Vibrio vulnificus bloodstream infections than healthy people.

Individuals with liver disease, including Hepatitis C and cirrhosis, are most at risk for developing serious illness from Vibrio vulnificus obtained from eating raw oysters.

Others who should avoid consuming raw shellfish are those with hemochromatosis (iron overload), diabetes, cancer, stomach disorders or any illness or treatment that weakens the immune system.

Thoroughly cooking oysters, either by frying, stewing, or roasting eliminates harmful bacteria and viruses in the meat.

Consuming raw oysters that have undergone a post-harvest treatment process to eliminate the bacteria can also reduce the risk of illness.