There are already numerous cases reported related to the infection by “Vibrio vulnificus”, the so-called “flesh-eating” bacterium, caused “by exposure to floodwaters and stagnant waters following the hurricane”, says the Health Department of the County of Lee.
Hurricane Ian has devastated Florida in recent weeks, at least 42 confirmed fatalities. But that’s not all. Lee County now also has to deal with an increase in cases of infections and deaths caused by carnivorous bacteria: there are at least 29 infections and four deaths.
Necrotizing fasciitis bacteria (Vibrio vulnificus) are often called ‘flesh-eating bacteria’, they live in warm brackish waters, such as stagnant ones.
“The Florida Department of Health in Lee County is observing an abnormal increase in cases of Vibrio vulnificus infections following exposure to floodwaters and backwaters following Hurricane Ian,” a Department spokesperson said Monday. county health.”
Residents are advised to “always be aware of the potential risks associated with exposing open wounds, cuts or scratches to the skin in hot, brackish or salt water.”
“Wastewater spills, such as those caused by Hurricane Ian, can increase bacterial levels,” the official note reads. “As the post-storm situation evolves, people should take precautions against infections and diseases caused by Vibrio vulnificus.”
Collier County, just south of Lee County, has also recorded three confirmed cases that officials say are related to Ian.
Across Florida, 11 confirmed deaths attributed to the bacterium and a total of 65 cases have been recorded this year, according to state health data. Officials estimate that nearly half is related to Hurricane Ian. In 2021, 10 deaths and 34 cases were recorded in Florida. The previous year, however, there were seven deaths attributed to bacteria.
The “flesh-eating” bacteria is so well known because it can develop into necrotizing fasciitis, a condition that causes tissue breakdown. They are not the only bacteria that can cause this particular form of infection.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in five patients who contract Vibrio vulnificus end up losing their lives, sometimes within a day or two of their illness. The infection can lead to septicemia if it enters the bloodstream and can sometimes force amputations to prevent it from spreading to other parts of a patient’s body.