The Florida Department of Health explained that Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium found in warm, brackish seawater (which is high in salt) and can enter the bloodstream through fresh cuts and scratches on the body.
The “flesh-eating” bacteria, which is also found in raw or undercooked shellfish, has killed two people in Hillsborough County since January, the report said. The remaining three deaths caused by the rare bacteria occurred in Polk, Pasco, and Sarasota counties. With the exception of Polk, all of these counties are on the Florida coast, facing the Gulf of Mexico.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three people who become infected with this bacterium die. In addition, the Cleveland Clinic announced that between 100 and 200 cases of infection by this bacterium are reported in the United States each year.
Vibrio vulnificus mostly affects older people or older people with immune system problems and can only be controlled with antibiotics.
Research published in Nature in March found that the bacterium is spreading in US waters as a result of global warming.
Over the past three decades, reported infections on the east coast have multiplied exponentially, from 8 to 30 a year, according to a study led by scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK.