US health officials have warned of the presence of the deadly bacterium Vibrio vulnificus, known as “carnivores,” in waters along the country’s east coast and the Gulf of Mexico.
The nation’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this weekend alerted health care providers that the bacterium has spread across the U.S., thriving in the warmer waters of summer (May through October) and in low-salinity marine environments such as the Pacific Ocean’s estuaries.
The federal agency warned that about 80,000 people contract the bacterium annually, mostly when they eat contaminated shellfish. However, the bacteria can also cause infection by entering through an open wound.
According to the CDC, between 150 and 200 Vibrio vulnificus infections are reported to you each year, and about one in five people with the infection die, sometimes within a day or two of becoming ill.
Los microbios Vibrio en el agua de inundación del huracán #Idalia pueden entrar en las heridas y causar una infección de la piel grave, algunas veces mortal.
— CDC Environment (@CDCEnvironment) September 1, 2023
What is Vibrio vulnificus?
Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium found in warm, brackish seawater and can enter the bloodstream through fresh cuts and scratches. Infections caused by Vibrio vulnificus are rare and more serious than most.
Vibrio vulnificus mostly affects older people or older people with immune system problems and can only be controlled with antibiotics.
For their part, doctors advise against eating raw shellfish, especially oysters, and not bathing in sea or brackish water with fresh wounds or cuts on the skin, to avoid the risk of infection.