The aftermath of Hurricane Ian has led to an increase in reports of a rare flesh-eating bacterial infection in Florida.
As of Friday, there have been 65 cases of Vibrio vulnificus and 11 deaths in the state so far this year, according to the Florida Department of Health. That’s up from the 34 cases and 10 deaths reported in 2021.
Many infections — often referred to as “flesh-eating” bacterial infections — occur in Lee County, where Ian It made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on September 28.
Of the 29 infections and four deaths recorded in Lee County, all but two were diagnosed after the hurricane, CNN reported.
Collier County reported three cases believed to be related to the storm.
“[The Florida Department of Health in Lee County] A spokesman told the broadcaster that an unusual increase in V. vulnificus infections was being observed due to exposure to flooding and standing water following Cyclone Ian.
“Since September 29, 2022, DOH-Lee has reported 26 cases of Vibrio vulnificus to DOH-Lee associated with Hurricane Ian. All 26 cases have occurred during home entry or post-storm due to exposure to storm surge Infected wound cleaning from Hurricane Ian flooding. Six residents of Lee County died.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vibrio vulnificus is considered “flesh-eating” because the infection can lead to necrotizing fasciitis, a serious infection in which the flesh around an open wound dies. It’s not the only bacteria that can cause infection.
V. vulnificus typically lives in warm brackish sea water, and infection is rare, the Florida Department of Health said.
“Water and wound do not mix,” it advises. “If you have new cuts or abrasions, please don’t go into the water.”
In a fact sheet on flood safety, it said people with open cuts and wounds should avoid skin contact with flood water.
People can also become infected with Vibrio vulnificus when they eat raw shellfish, especially oysters.
Infection can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. It can also lead to skin infections when open wounds are exposed to warm seawater, which can lead to breakouts and ulcers. It can also invade the bloodstream and cause serious and life-threatening illness with symptoms including fever, chills, drop in blood pressure and blistering of the skin.