Florida is seeing a rise in dangerous flesh-eating bacterial infections following destructive flooding from Hurricane Ian, according to CNN.
The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) reported 65 cases of Vibrio vulnificus infection and 11 deaths in the state this year as of October 13. Most of the infections are in Lee County, one of the major areas devastated by the Category 4 storm on September 28. Officials have been warning about the potentially deadly virus since October 3.
“As the post-storm situation evolves, DOH-Lee is urging the public to take precautions against infection and illness caused by Vibrio vulnificus,” spokesperson Tammy Soliz told CNN via email on Tuesday (October 18).
Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that lives in warm saltwater, typically infecting humans through undercooked shellfish and skin wounds. FDOH spokesperson Jae Williams said Ian brought an “astronomical record amount of flooding,” making a hotbed for these harmful bacteria.
Symptoms include watery diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Extreme cases may lead to blood infections, blistering skin lesions, amputations, or death.
Before Ian made landfall as a Category 4 monster, Lee County only had 2 reported cases while the state had 37 total. Florida saw 34 Vibrio vulnificus cases and 10 deaths in 2021, according to officials.
“Since September 29, 2022, 26 cases of Vibrio vulnificus associated with Hurricane Ian have been reported to DOH-Lee. All 26 cases had wound infectious with exposure to Hurricane Ian flood waters that occurred from the storm-surge entering their homes or during post-storm clean-up. There have been six deaths among Lee County residents,” Soliz explained.
Williams noted that cases have been declining in the days following Ian. FDOH is constantly urging residents to stay out of floodwaters and standing waters.