Reports on social media and some news outlets are reporting on "Flesh Eating Bacteria" at the beaches in Florida. The Florida Department of Heath has the facts. Maggie Hall, the department’s spokeswoman sent an email to the media to clarify the issue.
First, it's not flesh eating. "Vibrio vulnificus is not a 'flesh-eating' bacteria," wrote Ms. Hall. "There is no such medical term and the organism is not a Pac-man consuming pac-dots." When open wounds are exposed to the bacteria, ulcerations of the skin can occur.
There are NO confirmed cases in Palm Beach County.
As of September 18, 2015, the total number of reported vibrio cases in Florida stands at 32. There are 11 reported deaths this year.
“Based on the millions of visitors to the state’s beaches, the percentage of exposure to beach waters versus contracting vibrio is extremely low,” said Ms. Hall. The photo on the right is at Lake Worth Pier.
Since 2008, there have been a total of 238 cases reported with 75 resulting in death.
Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that normally lives in warm seawater and is part of a group of vibrios that are called “halophilic” because they require salt. It is a naturally occurring bacteria in warm, brackish seawater.
Vibrio vulnificus infections are rare. Cases increase during the summer months.
Water and wounds do not mix. Do not enter the water if you have fresh cuts or scrapes.
Some of the vibrio cases are contracted by eating raw shellfish such as oysters, clams, and mussels. Cook shellfish thoroughly.
IMPORTANT: According to the Health Department website, "Individuals who are immunocompromised, e.g chronic liver disease, kidney disease, or weakened immune system, should wear proper foot protection to prevent cuts and injury caused by rocks and shells on the beach."