- The bacterium Vibrio vulnificus is found in warm standing water with light salinity, as well as the organisms that live in it – shrimp, clams and fish
- Infection with this bacteria causes fever and chills, vomiting. It can also lead to septic shock and necrosis…
- It is not only found in warmer climates in Florida. Cases of infection have also occurred in the Baltic Sea…
Hurricane Ian hit Florida on September 28, 2022. It killed 100 people, 10 percent of whom died as a result of infection with a rare bacterium, Vibrio vulnificus, found in coastal waters.
Since the hurricane passed, doctors in Florida have diagnosed as many as 65 cases of the bacterial infection and 10 deaths from it. As many as 29 cases have been reported in Lee County, the county hardest hit by the elements. By comparison, for all of 2021, there were 34 cases of Vibrio vulnificus infection in Florida, and 10 people died from it.
On Oct. 3, the Florida State Department of Health issued a warning to residents and visitors not to enter the water imprudently – especially by those with open wounds and scrapes that could become infected.
One of the people who died as a result of the comma infection was 54-year-old James Hewitt of Michigan, who arrived in Florida on Oct. 5 to help clean up damage from Hurricane Ian. Three days after arriving, Hewitt fell into the water and injured his leg. As his loved ones later said, the man washed the wound with an antibacterial agent and returned to work.
The next day he was hospitalized, complaining of unimaginable pain in his swollen leg. Over the next few days, his blood pressure dropped dramatically and Hewitt went into sepsis and multiple organ failure. He was taken to the intensive care unit, where he was hooked up to a ventilator and placed in a drug-induced coma. The man died on October 11.
What is Vibrio vulnificus?
The Vibrio vulnificus bacterium is found worldwide, but the best environment for it is in tropical or subtropical climates. It is found both in stagnant, brackish water above 18 degrees C and in organisms living in it.
Vibrio vulnificus can be infected by eating raw or undercooked seafood in which it is found, but also by water contact with an open wound. Symptoms of infection are fever, chills and vomiting, resulting in sepsis. Infection with the bacterium can also lead to necrosis of connective tissue and wounds that are difficult to heal, which is why it is called flesh-eating bacteria.
The bacterium is also found in the colder parts of the Baltic Sea. Eight fatal cases of Vibrio vulnificus infection have been found in Germany since 2003, including four in 2019.