SAFETY ALERT: Saltwater bacteria kills 1 in Sarasota - WHLT 22 Connecting the Pine Belt

SAFETY ALERT: Saltwater bacteria kills 1 in Sarasota

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WFLA file photo. WFLA file photo.
SARASOTA, FL (WFLA) -

A death in Sarasota County has health officials reminding people about a bacteria in Florida's coastal waters that has the potential to cause serious illness, even death.

The bacteria is called Vibrio vulnificus and it occurs naturally in warm coastal waters, particularly during the summer months.

People who have wounds, scratches or cuts and wade or swim in estuarine areas or seawater where the bacteria might be present can become ill, according to the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County.

People with compromised health conditions are more vulnerable, including those with liver disease, Hepatitis C, and cirrhosis.

A Sarasota County DOH spokesperson said that one middle-aged person died in July from Vibrio vulnificus. The person, who was not identified, had underlying medical conditions.

A second case was reported in Sarasota County in July. That case did not result in death.

Health officials say in both Sarasota cases, the people are believe to have become infected by bacteria that entered through an open wound.

The Vibrio vulnificus bacteria can also be contracted by consuming raw shellfish, like oysters. Persons with certain health conditions like hemochromatosis (iron overload), diabetes, cancer, stomach disorders or any illness or treatment that weakens the immune system, are advised not to eat raw shellfish.

Other counties in Tampa Bay have also reported cases of Vibrio vulnificus. So far this year, there has been one case reported in Hillsborough County in addition to the two cases reported in Sarasota County.

Florida Department of Health records show there were 41 total statewide cases reported in 2013. 11 of those cases resulted in death, including one in Citrus County.

Other 2013 cases include one in Hernando County, four in Hillsborough County, two in Manatee County and three in Pinellas County.

Health officials stress that when visiting the beach, people should practice safety measures for Vibrio vulnificus with the same prudence as they would when protecting themselves from other risks like lightning and drowning.

"If you have a cut or open wound, we do not recommend you go in the water," said Sheri Hutchinson, who is Press Secretary for the Florida Department of Health.

Hutchison also said that awareness about the risks is key. "It's good prevention, being informed."

See the slideshow above to learn more about the risks and symptoms of Vibrio vulnificus and how to prevent it.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.



 

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