Flesh Eating Bacteria Cases Confirmed In Escambia And Santa Rosa
October 8, 2013
Monday, the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County has confirmed the first case of the flesh-eating bacteria Vibrio vulnificus in an Escambia County resident this year, and a case was confirmed in Santa Rosa County on Tuesday.
The health department urges residents to avoid eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to seawater and estuarine water that may harbor the bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus. Occurring naturally in the warm waters, particularly during the warm summer months, Vibrio vulnificus has the potential to cause serious illness.
Symptoms of Vibrio vulnificus wound infections typically include swelling, pain, and redness at the wound site. Both gastrointestinal and wound infections may cause 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.
Those with liver damage due to excessive drinking and individuals with liver disease, including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and cirrhosis, are most at risk for developing serious illness from Vibrio vulnificus. Other at-risk health conditions include hemochromatosis (iron overload), diabetes, cancer, stomach disorders, or any illness or treatment that weakens the immune system such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. At-risk individuals are more likely to become extremely ill or die from eating raw oysters containing these bacteria. People in these high-risk groups are also at risk of serious illness if they have wounds, cuts, or scratches and wade in estuarine areas or seawater where the bacteria might be present. Individuals living without these conditions can become ill from eating raw oysters containing these bacteria and from exposing open wounds to sea and estuarine waters, although their illnesses tend to be less severe.
DOH investigates all reported cases of Vibrio vulnificus in Florida. When cases result from food exposure, the Department works with regulatory agencies to identify the seafood’s harvest area. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is also notified and may shut down the harvest area and recall seafood if multiple incidents emerge from the same location.
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