A no-swim advisory has been issued for some of Florida Panhandle beaches by the Florida Department of Health due to the sighting of a bacteria known as “flesh-eating bacteria” Vibrio vulnificus.
Vibrio vulnificus is usually spotted in warm oceanic waters, especially in the summer. It is not precisely a flesh-eating bacteria, but it can cause sores and blisters, which leads the skin to degenerate quickly. If it can reach open wounds, it can result in limb amputation or even death with a 75 percent mortality rate.
One can become infected with Vibrio vulnificus through ingestion, especially where eating undercooked mollusks or contact in water with an open wound, including blisters, scrapes, and even small cuts on the skin. Infection by Vibrio organisms is known as vibriosis.
Public health specialists expect an increase in the number of cases due to the upcoming summer season.
More bacteria, more infections
Another bacteria has caused concern in Florida and led theDepartment of Health to close some of the state’s beaches. It is the case of Enterococcus, a bacteria that originates from fecal pollution. Enterococci are a bacteria that is usually found in the digestive system of both humans and animals.
They often indicate some infection due to fecal contamination, which is why it is related to pets, farms, and sewage. Enterococci are frequently found in water parks and public pools, and if they are ingested they tend to cause diseases with symptoms of fever, headaches, rashes and if left untreated, much worse conditions, similar to those native to vibriosis.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducts frequent tests and issues guidelines concerning the quality of public bodies of water, so there is a decreased risk of infection. The most common cause of infection related to swimming altogether is the ingestion of enterococci or coming in contact with it through open wounds. Salt water can provide a longer life period to bacteria, so it is necessary to assess the quality of the water of public beaches to ensure that swimmers are not exposed to any health risks.
— Florida Dept. Health (@HealthyFla) June 29, 2016
At the moment, eight beaches within the state of Florida have been placed under no-swim advisory due to being infected with either Enterococci or Vibrio vulnificus.
A statement issued by the Florida Department of Health reads as follows:
ALL FLORIDA PANHANDLE BEACHES WATER QUALITY ARE SATISFACTORY AT PRESENT FOR FECAL INDICATOR BACTERIA, EXCEPT SIX IN OKALOOSA COUNTY, AND TWO IN WALTON COUNTY WHICH HAVE AN “NO SWIM” ADVISORY.
OKALOOSA’S ARE GARNIERS PARK, POQUITO PARK, ROCKY BAYOU STATE PARK, EAST PASS, CLEMENT E. TAYLOR PARK, HENDERSON BEACH.
WALTON’S ARE: COUNTY PARK (MIRAMAR) BEACH AND BLUE MOUNTAIN BEACH
Some beaches in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas have also been analyzed for the presence of potentially dangerous bacteria. Currently, Alabama’s beaches were all clear, but it is advisable to review their risk of infection before heading there for a swim, as it is likely to change from one day to another.
Cases of infection and mortality rates
Two cases of Vibrio vulnificus infection were registered in the state of Texas. First, it was a man named Adrian Ortiz, and then it was Brian Parrot, who had his right leg amputated due to the infection. At first, Ortiz saw a rash and did not pay notice until more severe symptoms started to appear. There have been 27 reports of Vibrio vulnificus infection over the course of 2016. In Florida, a sum of 77 Vibrio vulnificus infections between 2014 and 2015 resulted in 21 deaths.
The Florida Department of Health believes that most fatal cases of vibriosis occur when there is a weakened immune system. Although the bacteria is a rare cause of disease, it is often underreported, which leads to a significant increase in its incidence.
Prevention and treatment
As it was stated to 10News by Dr. Michael Hillman from St. Petersburg General Hospital, the best way to prevent waterborne infection is to take special care of wounds before going into the water. Any rashes or pains may indicate possible infection, even more so if paired up with fever, vomiting or diarrhea. If these symptoms occur, a doctor should be visited as soon as possible.
The Florida Department of Health suggests thoroughly cooking shellfish before eating. They specifically indicate to boil them until the shells open and keep them boiling for five more minutes. The best time for ingestion is just after cooking, and leftovers should be properly refrigerated.
The best way to treat Vibrio vulnificus is through aggressive antibiotic therapy, although treatment is not necessary for less severe situations. Drinking enough water to replace the fluids lost through diarrhea should be sufficient in most cases of mild vibriosis. On the other hand, enterococci are resistant to antibiotics, especially to penicillin. Enterococci must be treated through new antibiotics such as daptomycin.
— Florida Dept. Health (@HealthyFla) June 29, 2016
The FDA’s Seafood Hotline at 1-800-332-4010 offers advises on the consumption and risks of shellfish, including those cases where Vibrio vulnificus and Enterococcus may be implicated.
Source: Florida Department of Health