Florida Beaches See Bacteria Scare

Vibrio vulnificus bacteria in Florida ocean waters caused deaths and infections

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The beach is not always fun in the sun — sometimes it can be unsafe. Health officials have warned the public about a dangerous bacteria found in the waters of Florida's beaches.

Health officials in Florida are warning the public about a bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus.

The bacteria, which thrives in warm salt water, has caused 32 infections and 10 deaths in the state so far this year.

"Cook shellfish like oysters completely before eating."

According to ABC News affiliate WFTS Tampa Bay, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) has warned the public about Vibrio vulnificus. The FDOH reported that 32 people have become ill with the bacteria and 10 have died so far in 2014.

Last year, 41 people became infected and 11 died from Vibrio vulnificus in the state, the FDOH reported.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Vibrio vulnificus is related to the bacteria that causes cholera and is often transferred when people eat infected seafood or when an open wound is exposed to ocean water.

In healthy people, Vibrio vulnificus usually causes symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and, in cases of open-wound exposure, sores on the skin.

In people who have a weakened immune system — like those with chronic liver disease — the bacteria can cause a severe blood infection, sometimes leading to decreased blood pressure, blistering sores and death. The CDC noted that Vibrio vulnificus blood infections led to death in about 50 percent of cases.

The CDC noted that Vibrio vulnificus infections were rare but also underreported. Most infections in the US are reported in the Gulf Coast states — Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi. More than 900 Vibrio vulnificus infections were reported in these states between 1988 and 2006.

The FDOH advised those with weakened immune systems or open wounds not to enter the water. Anyone who does get into the ocean should wash off as soon as possible.

Florida officials also said consumers should cook oysters prior to eating. The investigation into recent deaths and infections with Vibrio vulnificus is ongoing, and health officials are monitoring the cases in Florida.

Treatment for Vibrio vulnificus infections requires the quick use of antibiotics and care for any skin wounds.

Review Date: 
July 30, 2014
Last Updated:
July 30, 2014