Sea-dwelling flesh-eating bacterium claimed the ninth Floridian’s life of the year so far last week. The flesh-eating bacterium claims the lives of 35 people a year. Often, the symptoms of this bacterium, which is in the same family as cholera, aren’t paid much attention to, until it becomes too late.
The latest victim of the flesh-eating bacterium is Henry Konietzsky, 59. He passes away on September 23, 2013.
The bacterium Vibrio vulniflicus multiplies very rapidly. He died just two days after he became infected by the bacterium while he set his crab traps in a river. According to Florida Today, Konietzsky saw a sore that resembled an insect bite on his leg the day after he set the crab traps.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) states that the bacterium can be found in warm sea water. Though it’s relatively rare to get infected by Vibrio vulnificus, it’s not a good idea to go swimming in warm coastal waters if you have open sores. That’s the easiest way to get exposed to the bacterium.
Florida, according to the state’s Department of Health, has an average of 16 cases which are fatal per year of people who get infected by the flesh-eating bacterium. Across the United States, the average is 95 cases per year, with 85 of those needing to be hospitalized. Thirty-five people per year die from the bacterium.
How do people get exposed to the flesh-eating bacterium?
Aside from swimmers in shallow sea waters with open sores getting infected by the bacterium, people can get infected in other ways. When it does enter into the body through sores or cuts, the bacterium cause infections that people often ignore because, at first, the infection doesn’t look very serious.
The bacterium may seem to be relatively harmless, at first; but, underneath the skin, they cause tissue damage. The flesh-eating Vibrio vulniflicus then make their way into the blood stream. There, they cause the sometimes fatal blood infection, sepsis.
Another way they can contract the bacterium is through eating raw seafood, like oysters. Most people are not very much at risk to be infected by eating raw seafood; but, if you have kidney or liver disease, you are more likely to contract it. The oysters filter sea water through their symptoms, and ingest the flesh-eating bacterium. If people with damaged immune systems eat infected raw oysters, they can get very sick quickly.
The flesh-eating bacterium, Vibrio vulnificus, is not in the same family as the flesh-eating bacterium, Aeromonas hydrophila, that Georgia grad student Aimee Copeland got infected by when she cut her leg and fell into a river. Both, though, are contracted in similar ways, through cuts and sores.
Is there any treatment and/or cure?
Sometimes surgery is necessary to get rid of all of a person’s infected tissue. Often, multiple surgeries are required, as the infection spreads rapidly. Occasionally, limbs have to be amputated to halt the spread of the flesh-eating bacterium. Antibiotics are also prescribed to help combat the bacterium. The people who are infected also need to be given fluids, to ensure that hteir kidneys don’t shut down.
The treatment for people who contract the flesh-eating Vibrio vulnificus may seem to be extreme, but if people aren’t diagnosed and treated soon enough, the infection can prove to be fatal.
If you’re swimming in warm sea water and notice that you have what appears to be minor infections on your legs and/or arms, etc., you should visit a medical professional to make sure that what seems to be a minor infection doesn’t end up in taking your life. Also, if you have liver or kidney disease, you should stay away from eating raw shellfish like oysters.
Florida isn’t the only state in which people can contract the flesh-eating bacterium, especially if it’s through eating raw seafood. Don’t be its next victim — know the signs and if you suspect you been infected by the flesh-eating bacterium, consult a physician right away.
Written by: Douglas Cobb