Flesh-Eating Bacteria Blamed in 8 Deaths

(NewsReady.com) – A rare bacteria has killed eight people across four East Coast states. Most of the victims picked up an infection after swimming in contaminated seawater, but another fell ill after eating raw oysters. Health chiefs and politicians are warning people to be careful.

On August 16, Connecticut’s Department of Public Health announced that two people had died from the Vibrio vulnificus bacteria after swimming in Long Island Sound. A third person was hospitalized in July with the same disease, which they reportedly caught from eating raw oysters in an out-of-state restaurant. The same day, New York’s Department of Health reported a fatality from the bacteria in Suffolk County. The report said officials are investigating the country’s coastal waters to see if the infection could have been picked up there. It’s now emerged that five more people have recently died from Vibrio vulnificus, this time around in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Vibrio vulnificus comes from the same family as Vibrio cholera, which causes cholera. Symptoms include diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, fever, and chills — but it can also cause necrotizing fasciitis, giving it the nickname “flesh-eating bacteria.” Victims with this condition develop sores, blisters, and severe septicemia, which can be fatal. Necrotizing fasciitis usually develops when bacteria enter an open wound.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) is advising people to keep seawater out of open wounds. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone warned that people with cancer, immune disease, or liver disease are more vulnerable to infection and added that anyone with a weakened immune system should avoid raw or uncooked shellfish.

The bacteria is most common in summer, when coastal waters are warmer, and infects around 800,000 people annually in the US. On average, 100 of the victims die — a low percentage overall, but it rises to one in five of those who develop necrotizing fasciitis.

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