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Flesh-Eating Bacteria in Hurricane Idalia Floodwaters

Health officials in Florida are warning people about the risk of flesh-eating bacteria in the floodwaters left behind by Hurricane Idalia.

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A vibriosis infection can lead to severe symptoms such as necrosis — the death of living tissue like skin — and sepsis. NEJM

The bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, is found in warm, salty water and can cause a serious infection called necrotizing fasciitis. This infection can quickly spread and destroy tissue, and it can be fatal if not treated promptly.

People who are most at risk of infection include those with open wounds, cuts, or sores, as well as those with weakened immune systems.

Officials are urging people to avoid contact with floodwaters, and to seek medical attention immediately if they develop any symptoms of infection, such as redness, swelling, pain, or fever.

Here are some tips to stay safe from flesh-eating bacteria in floodwaters:

  • Avoid contact with floodwaters.
  • If you must come into contact with floodwaters, wear gloves and long sleeves.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after contact with floodwaters.
  • Cover any open wounds or cuts with a bandage.
  • Seek medical attention immediately if you develop any symptoms of infection.

Here are some additional information about flesh-eating bacteria:

  • Vibrio vulnificus is a type of bacteria that lives in warm, salty water. It can also be found in brackish water and in the guts of some shellfish.
  • The bacteria can enter the body through cuts or scrapes in the skin, or through the lining of the mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • Symptoms of infection usually start within 24 hours of exposure to the bacteria and can include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • In severe cases, the infection can spread quickly and cause tissue death.
  • There is no specific treatment for flesh-eating bacteria, but antibiotics can be used to slow the spread of the infection.
  • In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove dead tissue.

If you think you may have been exposed to flesh-eating bacteria, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Early treatment is essential to prevent serious complications.

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