Vibriosis claims another life in Florida amid hurricane aftermath

A rare and potentially fatal bacterial infection has been linked to the death of a Sarasota County resident, according to the Florida Department of Health. The infection, known as vibriosis, is caused by Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium that naturally lives in warm, salty or brackish water.

What is vibriosis and how does it spread?

Vibriosis can cause skin breakdown and ulcers, as well as diarrhea, vomiting, fever and chills. It can also lead to septicemia, a life-threatening condition where the bacteria enters the bloodstream and causes organ failure. People with underlying health conditions, such as liver disease, diabetes, cancer or HIV, are more susceptible to severe complications from vibriosis.

Vibriosis claims another life in Florida amid hurricane aftermath
Vibriosis claims another life in Florida amid hurricane aftermath

People can get infected with Vibrio vulnificus by coming into contact with contaminated water or eating raw or undercooked seafood, especially oysters. The risk of infection increases during the warmer months, when the bacteria thrives in higher temperatures. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vibriosis causes an estimated 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths in the United States every year.

How is vibriosis related to Hurricane Ian?

Hurricane Ian, which hit Florida as a Category 4 storm at the end of September, caused widespread flooding and damage in several counties, including Sarasota. The storm also brought large amounts of seaweed and debris to the shorelines, creating a favorable environment for Vibrio vulnificus to grow and spread.

The Florida Department of Health has reported an abnormal increase in vibriosis cases in Lee County, where residents have been cleaning up after the hurricane. As of Friday, the state has confirmed 64 vibriosis infections and 13 deaths this year, up from 34 cases and 10 deaths last year. This is the first time the number of cases has gone above 50 since 2008, when the state started keeping track.

The Sarasota County death is one of the five fatalities attributed to vibriosis in Florida so far this year. The identity and details of the deceased person have not been released by the health department.

How can vibriosis be prevented and treated?

The best way to prevent vibriosis is to avoid exposure to contaminated water or seafood. People who have open wounds or cuts should not swim or wade in saltwater or brackish water, especially after a storm or flood. People who handle raw seafood should wash their hands and utensils thoroughly with soap and water. People who eat seafood should cook it properly to kill any harmful bacteria.

People who suspect they have vibriosis should seek medical attention immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment can reduce the risk of serious complications or death. Vibriosis can be treated with antibiotics and supportive care, such as fluids and pain relief. In some cases, surgery may be needed to remove infected tissue.

What are the signs and symptoms of vibriosis?

The signs and symptoms of vibriosis depend on how the infection occurs. If the infection is through a wound, it can cause swelling, redness, pain and blisters around the site. The skin may also develop necrotizing fasciitis, a rare but serious condition that destroys the tissue under the skin. If the infection is through ingestion, it can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and fever. In both cases, the infection can spread to the bloodstream and cause septic shock, organ failure and death.

The symptoms of vibriosis usually appear within 24 hours of exposure to the bacteria. However, some people may not show any symptoms at all or have mild symptoms that go away on their own. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the risk factors and seek medical help if any signs of infection are present.

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