‘Flesh-eating bacteria‘ kills one in Louisiana; three others also affected
- Vibrio vulnificus has claimed the life of one 83-year-old man and infected three others
- The bacteria lives in warm, brackish saltwater
- The Center for Disease Control recommends avoiding contact between open wounds and sea water
- Skin infection often results in amputation of the affected area, and bloodstream infections can be fatal
By Alex Greig DailyMail PUBLISHED: 7 July 2013
One person has died and three others have become ill after contracting the so-called ‘flesh-eating’ bacteria the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana.
The person who died was an 83-year-old Terrebonne Parish man, who was infected when an open wound on his body came into contact with sea water while he was fishing in a boat.
Vibrio vulnificus is a naturally-occurring bacteria in warm sea water that belongs to the same family of bacterium as cholera and requires salt to live.
Southern waters: Water is routinely tested in Grand Isle and other areas in Louisiana to ensure safety for swimmers
According to the Center for Disease Control the bacteria can also be contracted from eating contaminated raw seafood.
The effects of the bacteria can be deadly.
Immunocompromised people face a deadlier risk: they have a higher possibility of the bacteria invading the bloodstream, leading to potentially fatal complications.
Contamination: Raw seafood, especially oysters, is a source of Vibrio Vulnificus
If the bacteria is ingested, healthy people can experience vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
For people with weaker immune systems, consuming Vibrio vulnificus can infect the bloodstream, leading to ‘a severe and life-threatening illness characterized by fever and chills, decreased blood pressure (septic shock), and blistering skin lesions,’ according to the CDC.
Bloodstream infections by the bacteria are fatal about 50 per cent of the time.
Patients are treated with antibiotics, and according to the CDC, infected wounds must be treated aggressively – sometimes meaning amputation of an infected limb.
High bacteria area: The warm waters around the Louisiana Gulf are prime areas for Vibrio Vulcanificus
Safety: Most swimmers are not at risk from the bacteria if they exercise precaution and avoid warm, brackish waters where the bacteria thrives
The four cases this summer have prompted the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to warn residents to be careful about swimming with open wounds or infections, and avoid certain areas around the Gulf.
‘We know people are venturing into our state’s waterways to cool off this summer, so we advise them to be careful and exercise health precautions,’ Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert said in a news release.
According to The Town Talk, Louisiana routinely tests its beaches’ water, and posts advisories on 25 Louisiana beaches if the bacteria levels become high.
THE CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL’S RECOMMENDATIONS
These recommendations are particularly important for those with compromised immune systems:
- Do not eat raw oysters or other raw shellfish.
- Cook shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels) thoroughly.
- For shellfish in the shell, either a) boil until the shells open and continue boiling for 5 more minutes, or b) steam until the shells open and then continue cooking for 9 more minutes. Do not eat those shellfish that do not open during cooking. Boil shucked oysters at least 3 minutes, or fry them in oil at least 10 minutes at 375°F.
- Avoid cross-contamination of cooked seafood and other foods with raw seafood and juices from raw seafood
- Eat shellfish promptly after cooking and refrigerate leftovers
- Avoid exposure of open wounds or broken skin to warm salt or brackish water, or to raw shellfish harvested from such waters.
- Wear protective clothing (e.g., gloves) when handling raw shellfish