Following Hurricane Ian, flesh-eating bacteria cases rise in Florida

A county in Florida that was slammed by Hurricane Ian has reported more than two dozen flesh-eating bacteria cases in the aftermath of the devastating storm.

Lee County has seen 26 cases of Vibrio vulnificus in the last three weeks, leading to six deaths. The bacteria enters the body through open wounds and kills about 20% of the people it infects after inflicting dead tissue, sepsis, shock and organ failure — sometimes within a day or two of infection — according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Vibriosis causes an estimated 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths in the United States every year,” the CDC website reads.

It is very prevalent in areas that flood, according to experts.

Florida Department of Health spokesperson Jae Williams said that cases have been declining, “which is a very good thing.”

Treatment of the bacteria can involve amputations before it spreads to other parts of the body.

The state as a whole has seen 65 cases in 2022.

“Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that usually lives in warm, brackish sea water,” the Florida Department of Health in Lee County warned earlier in October. “These bacteria typically grow faster during warmer months. Sewage spills in coastal waters, like those caused by Hurricane Ian, may increase bacteria levels. People with open wounds, cuts, or scratches can be exposed to Vibrio vulnificus through direct contact with sea water or brackish water.”

Non-fatal symptoms of the illness include painful swelling, headache, fever, skin blotches and blisters, disorientation, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

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