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A new study published in the June 2019 journal Annals of Internal Medicine shows that warmer waters may be driving up the cases of Vibriosis, a flesh-eating bacterial infection, in regions of the country, including New Jersey’s coastal waters, where it typically would not be found.
In the past two years, five cases linked to Vibrio vulnificus – a skin and muscle tissue-destroying bacteria contracted by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly oysters, or handling contaminated seafood while sporting an open wound – have been tied to Delaware Bay, which borders southern New Jersey and Delaware. The study shows that water temperatures have been on the rise in recent years, creating favorable conditions for Vibrio.
Who’s at Risk?
“Anyone can get sick with a Vibrio vulnificus infection, but people with a compromised immune system or liver disease are more likely to get an infection and severe complications,” says Daniel Hart, MD, Medical Director of Infectious Diseases at Summit Medical Group. “If you have a cut, sore or broken skin or are immunocompromised and notice changes or the appearance of infection after spending time in the water, seek medical attention promptly as early medical intervention is key to achieve the best outcomes."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that Vibrio vulnificus causes about 205 infections in the United States every year.
Symptoms of a Vibrio vulnificus infection include:
Infection is diagnosed when Vibrio bacteria are found in the wound, blood, or stool of an ill person. Treatment is not necessary in mild gastrointestinal cases, but even mild skin infections should be treated with oral antibiotics. Although there is no evidence that antibiotics decrease the severity or duration of illness, they are sometimes used in severe or prolonged illnesses. Patients should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluids lost through diarrhea.
The CDC offers the following tips to reduce your risk of Vibriosis:
If you are in a group more likely to get Vibriosis: