Flesh eating bacteria in Gulf water

Warren Wright

Photo: Video by fox4now.com

Flesh eating bacteria in Gulf water

CREATED Oct. 9, 2013

FORT MYERS, Fla.-  A salt water bacteria that can kill you is causing concern in Lee County.

A total of seven people in the county have been infected this year, two of which have died.
Across the state,  27 people have been infected,  with a total of nine deaths.
A number of counties have issued health warnings, but Lee County hasn't.
Vibrio Vulnificus,  that's the name of this bacteria.
This flesh eating bacteria is described as brutal and very aggressive
Dr. Amy Wecker is a specialist in infectious diseases. 
She says "it is scary stuff... and its not very common but when it does happen - its very dramatic."
The bacteria thrives in warm brackish seawater.  
It can enter your system by eating infected oysters or through a flesh wound while out swimming.  
Once infected, blisters appear - typically on the leg.
Wecker says "then it will develop into septicemia, which is a full body blood stream infection and the you will develop organ failure for that and then a lot of time vibrio vulnificans is fatal."
So who is most at risk?  
Does this mean no one should go swimming in the gulf or eat oysters?
Dr. Wecker says no.
Those most at risk are people with cirrhosis of the liver such as alcoholism. 
Also, people who are immuno-compromised.
That includes diabetics, people who are in kidney failure, and people who have chronic illnesses such as cancer or HIV.
But Lee County Public Health isn't issuing any warnings.
Just two years ago, the number of infections were up to 35 with 13 deaths... this year its currently at 27 infections with 9 deaths.
Diane Holm is with the Lee County Health Department.
She says "we don't consider these numbers to be abnormal for the state of Florida at this point.   we consider them to be average."
But Dr. Wecker urges those with high risk factors to think first before taking a dip in the gulf.
Wecker adds "I think it would definitely be something to consider in an older sicker population to maybe be a little more careful at the beach."
Lee County Public Health department insists the general public is not at risk and that its perfectly fine to go swimming in the gulf.
Warren Wright