Flesh-Eating Bacteria in Gulf of Mexico Kills 10

When you’re worried about the things you can’t see in the ocean while you’re swimming, worry less about sharks and more about the cut you gave yourself shaving.

The latest in scary news that seems to only happen in Florida is a flesh-eating bacteria that has hospitalized 32 and killed 10 along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The bacteria, Vibro vulnificus, thrives in salt water and is related to bacteria that causes cholera. The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County issued an official warning today about the flesh-eating bacteria that leads to a life-threatening blood infection.

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According to the Florida Department of Health, the bacteria is naturally found in warm, “brackish” and salt water such as estuaries and coastal channels, but can seriously infect people with open wounds who swim there.

Wounds infected with Vibrio vulnificus are usually painful, swollen, and red, according to health officials. Additional symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, chills, as well as blistering skin lesions. Health officials encourage residents to contact a physician immediately if they are experiencing these symptoms.

If the infection is left to fester, it can breakdown the skin and lead to ulcers, hence, the “flesh-eating” descriptor. Eventually, the infection can enter the bloodstream, which is when it can become life-threatening.

But it’s not just swimmers that should be wary. People can contract this bacteria from eating raw or undercooked shellfish that hasn’t gone through a post-harvest treatment process, especially if they already suffer from a condition that weakens their immune system such as hepatitis C, liver disease, diabetes, cancer, or stomach disorders.

Sharks < Flesh-eating bacteria

All of this leads me to wonder... I travel to Florida regularly and have heard nothing of this bacteria, which infected 41 people and killed 10 in Florida in 2013 according to the state health department. The first warning about Vibrio vulnificus went out June 4.

Instead, while we are swimming all we can think about are the sharks that may or may not be lurking. Why are we so afraid of sharks in the ocean when we’re so much more likely to die from an unseen bacterial infection?

In 2013, the University of Florida’s annual shark attack report found there were 125 shark attacks worldwide. Florida in 2013 had 23 unprovoked attacks but no deaths. Only 10 people, worldwide, died from unprovoked shark attacks in 2013.

So far Vibrio vulnificus in Florida killed as many people that died from shark attacks world wide in all of 2013.

Conclusion: Sharks are cute compared to this scary, unseen attacker.