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Alabama Cautions Against Flesh-Eating Bacteria

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Health authorities in Alabama have issued a warning on flesh-eating bacteria found in various bodies of water throughout the state, after cases of Vibrio infection were reported along its Gulf Coast.

The Alabama Department of Health cautioned residents in a statement on Friday, saying that Vibrio can only be contracted in brackish or salt water, CBS News reports. It can also be ingested via contaminated seafood, or through open wounds that come into contact with seawater.

Dr. Karen Landers, assistant state health officer, said she hopes this will educate “the general public about wounds and water, safe swimming, and safe consumption of seafood.”

She added, “At this time of year, the ADPH receives increased calls regarding skin infections related to wounds and water as well as the occasional, rare instance of necrotizing fasciitis. Sometimes, people contract Vibrio in the coastal region and do not become ill until they return to their county or state of residence.”

The department tells people who get wounds while in seawater to wash immediately with fresh water and soap, and seek medical attention right away. They also discourage people with sores and open wounds to stay out of the water, and for people with compromised immune systems – those who have cancer, diabetes, liver or kidney disease, and other chronic conditions – to avoid eating raw and undercooked seafood.

Barbara Gibbs of the Mobile County Health Department confirmed three cases of Vibrio in the area. She said these cases are all linked to open wounds being exposed to seawater, while one is from eating raw oysters in another state. In 80% of such infections, people who see the doctor within 24 hours of coming into contact with the parasite generally don’t get sicker, and recover.

The CDC estimates that 80,000 people fall ill due to vibriosis yearly, and 100 die of the infection. In Alabama alone, there were 33 investigation and 30 confirmed cases of the infection last year.

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