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Vibrio vulnificus myth busters

August 20, 2014
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

To the editor:

Bacterial infections caused by Vibrio vulnificus are rare, estimated to affect only 1 percent of the population. Contrary to some news reports, when this bacterium enters through an open wound in the skin, it does not cause necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating). As with any bacteria that enter through the skin, infection prevention includes proper wound cleansing, and keeping the wound clean and dry until it heals. Prevention of gastro-intestinal illness caused by Vibrio vulnificus includes not eating raw shellfish, such as oysters. Vibrio vulnificus can be successfully treated with antibiotics when caught early.

When infection does occur, it spreads into the bloodstream and causes septicemia. People with pre-existing medical conditions, especially liver disease, are in a high risk group estimated to be 80 times more likely to develop bloodstream infections. It is recommended that people in a high risk group avoid exposure to warm salt or brackish water if they have an open wound or broken skin. Historically, about half the people who got blood infections died. Symptoms of blood infection include fever, chills, blistering skin lesions and decreased blood pressure.

Within the 1 percent high risk group, not everyone gets sick. For example, Florida has had 15 cases this year. Those 15 cases compared to the population of 19 million totals 0.00008 percent who became infected and required medical treatment.

The Florida Department of Health remains committed to protecting, promoting and improving the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts. For the most up to date information about Vibrio vulnificus in Florida, please visit the Florida Department of Health's Online Newsroom at

Diane Holm

PIO/Healthy Community Coordinator

Florida Department of Health in Lee County



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