‘Flesh-Eating’ Bacteria from Sea Water Kills Two in Florida

AP Photo/Alan Diaz
AP Photo/Alan Diaz

Two people have died this year in Florida from seafood laden with the “flesh-eating” bacteria, officials report.

The bacterium—which flourishes in warm, brackish water—is called Vibrio vulnificus and, in these two cases, was contracted from eating or handling raw seafood, a Florida newspaper reported on Monday.

At least 32 cases of Vibrio vulnificus were reported in Florida in 2014, with as many as seven deaths resulting, but people usually get infected by swimming in infected waters. Already for the 2015 summer season, eight cases have been reported in Florida alone.

Along with handling or ingesting raw seafood that is infected, authorities say the virus can also be transmitted through mosquito bites.

Symptoms first present like the stomach flu or food poisoning but soon blistering skin lesions, low blood pressure, chills, and fever set in.

Sufferers often endure painful skin infections that can end up forcing limb amputations to halt the spread of the bacteria. The infections are said to have the highest human fatality rate for any bacterium.

The waters from Maryland southward to Florida yield the most infections.

The CDC describes the bacteria as “a bacterium in the same family as those that cause cholera and Vibrio parahaemolyticus” and explains that “It normally lives in warm seawater and is part of a group of vibrios that are called ‘halophilic’ because they require salt.”

Those with open sores or cuts and those with immune deficiencies are most susceptible to becoming infected.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston, or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com.