In Florida this year, nine people have died and another 27 reported infections from Vibrio vulnificus bacteria, which lives in salty water. Such infections are rare, but cases have steadily risen in Florida since 2008, when 15 cases and five deaths were reported.
Vibrio vulnificus are naturally occurring bacteria in saltwater, which are more commonly found in stagnant and brackish waters with lower salinity levels, such as estuaries and inlets.
The bacteria enter the skin most commonly through small scrapes or cuts after exposure to contaminated saltwater. Other typical sources of exposure are eating uncooked seafood or shellfish, especially raw oysters. Early recognition of the symptoms and diagnosis is essential to successful treatment of this potentially deadly bacterial infection.
People with liver disease and other illnesses that compromise their immune system are especially vulnerable.
One third of infected patients develop shock during the first 12 hours of hospitalization. Symptoms include the abrupt onset of chills, fever, headache, muscle pain, vomiting and diarrhea 24 to 48 hours after exposure. These symptoms are sometimes followed by low blood pressure. Skin lesions develop within the first 36 hours of onset.
For more information and photos of the skin lesions from VisualDx, a mobile app and online resource that helps doctors more accurately diagnose disease, please visit: http://www.logicalimages.com/publicHealthResources/vibrioVulnificus.htm