What is Vibrio vulnificus "flesh eating bacteria"?
Vibrio vulnificus is a bacteria that’s naturally present in salt and brackish water around the world. The bacteria is not associated with pollution and is not unique to the Gulf of Mexico, Texas or Galveston. Infections from Vibrio vulnificus are rare and typically affect people with pre-existing health conditions who had open cuts or sores when they came into contact with the bacteria.
Who is more likely to get Vibrio vulnificus infections?
People with diabetes, liver disease, cancer or other immune suppressing conditions who swim in natural bodies of water with open cuts or sores are at an increased risk for Vibrio vulnificus infection. Healthy people are extraordinarily less likely to get an infection than the ill.
During which months are people more likely to get Vibrio vulnificus infections?
About 80% of infections occur between May and October when water temperatures are warmer.
How common are Vibrio vulnificus infections?
More than 10 million people visited Texas beaches in 2015 and 35 cases of Vibrio vulnificus were reported. That means less than 0.00035% of beachgoers were affected. By comparison, 100 times as many people were killed in vehicle crashes in Texas during the same year.
How serious are Vibrio vulnificus infections?
Most people with a mild infection recover with no lasting effects. However, people with pre-existing conditions who develop infection can get seriously ill and need intensive care or limb amputation. In very extreme cases it can be fatal.
What precautions should people take to protect against infection?
Swimming in natural bodies of water anywhere comes with risk. To reduce the risk, beachgoers with open cuts or sores, especially those with pre-existing conditions, should avoid swimming or check with their doctor first.
People who suffer cuts while in natural bodies of water anywhere should immediately leave the water, thoroughly clean the wound and do not return until the wound heals. It’s important to keep an eye on the area for infection or swelling. If either occur, medical attention should be obtained immediately. Vibrio vulnificus infections are treatable, especially if caught early.
Wearing water shoes while swimming and gloves or waders while fishing can help prevent cuts.
Going to a beach is safe for the vast majority of people. As with any activity that involves Mother Nature, there is always going to be risk and groups of people who are more vulnerable than others. People should always take precautions in natural bodies of water, especially those with pre-exiting conditions or open cuts or sores.
People are much more likely to be killed in a car accident driving to a beach than they are to get an infection from the water.