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  • The bacterial species Vibrio vulnificus develops in warm salty or brackish waters. It can cause a disease of flesh that can sometimes result in amputation or death.

  • People can become infected with Vibrio after wading in contaminated water with an open wound or after eating raw shellfish.

  • In the past 30 days, four people have been infected with a flesh-eating bacteria.

  • More recently, an elderly man died after contracting the bacteria in the waters near Destin, Florida. A 12-year-old girl was infected near the same area about a week ago.

  • This species of flesh-eating bacteria is spreading beyond its traditional region, partly because of the warming of ocean temperatures caused by climate change.

  • Warning: This message contains graphic images and content.

  • Visit the Business Insider home page for more stories.

Another person from the East Coast was infected with a flesh-eating bacterium. This time, the case turned out to be fatal.

In a July 10 Facebook message, Cheryl Bennett Wiygul wrote that her father had contracted the infection, called necrotizing fasciitis, after visiting him in Okaloosa County, Florida. Flesh-eating bacteria may require amputation of a limb and lead to death even with treatment.

Just 12 hours after wading through Florida water, Wiygul said his father "woke up with fever, chills and cramps". He returned home to Memphis, Tennessee, where he his wife took him to the hospital.

The doctors discovered a "terribly swollen black spot on the back", which later doubled in size, wrote Wiygul. The infection caused blood sepsis from his father, who died Sunday afternoon, less than 48 hours after getting out of the water.

The death of Wiygul's father was not the only fatality linked to flesh-eating bacteria in the past month. In June, Lynn Fleming, 77, died of complications from the same infection, NBC News reported. Cases of Necrotizing fasciitis has also been reported in two children, although both survived.

The species of flesh – eating bacteria in issue is called Vibrio vulnificus. People can get Vibrio infections in Chesapeake Bay and along the Gulf Coast after eating or handling raw shellfish or swimming in contaminated water. These infections are rare in the United States, but a case report published last month in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that rising ocean temperatures could allow the bacteria to spread into hitherto unaffected waters. .

"In 2017, we witnessed three cases of severe skin infections, which raised flags," said Business Insider's Dr. Katherine Doktor, an infectious disease specialist at Cooper University Hospital who co-wrote The report. "In 2018, we saw two more.These five cases are significant because in the eight years preceding 2017, we have seen only one case of Vibrio vulnificus in our facility."

In the past, Vibrio infections occurred after people swam or came in contact with seafood from Chesapeake Bay. But the five patients in the Doktor case report were infected after being exposed to water further north, in the colder bay of Delaware Bay, or having consumed crabs in the area.

Vibrio infections quickly manifest themselves

About a week before Wiygul's father entered the waters near Destin Beach (according to his Facebook post), news of a 12-year-old girl infected in the same area began to spread on social media.

Kylei Brown waded into the water at Destin Beach in early June. Shortly after, she started complaining of leg pains, which went through her body and became more intense over time, according to a Facebook publication by her mother.

Three days after their trip to the beach, Brown's family took her to emergency, where doctors diagnosed her with necrotizing fasciitis. The doctors were able to rescue Brown's leg during an emergency operation.

The other child with a flesh-eating bacterium was the son of Brittany Carey, who bathed in Sinepuxent Bay, Maryland, on June 29th. Two days later, he began developing "small spots" all over his body, Carey said in a Facebook message. These spots turned into red and gaping wounds, which led physicians to diagnose the same type of bacterial eating flesh infection in the boy.

People can catch bacteria by handling or eating raw shellfish

There are many species of Vibrio bacteria and most make us sick, causing diarrhea, cramps, nausea, vomiting and fever. Usually, these symptoms disappear in about three days.

Read more: Man has been amputated from the arm after eating raw seafood contaminated with a potentially carnivorous bacteria

However, V. vulnificus can cause serious blood infections, accompanied by vesicles filled with blood and necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh disease, which kills body tissues.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people can be infected with V. vulnificus by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, especially oysters. It can also infect the skin if an open wound is exposed to brackish water or salt water. Some people get infections after wading in floodwaters. There have been several deaths related to Vibrio after Hurricane Katrina, for example.

"The infection goes through the whole body, much like a hurricane or tornado that ravages everything," Doktor said.

These infections can often be treated with antibiotics, but the dead tissue must sometimes be removed or the limb associated amputated to prevent the spread of the infection. The blood infection causes death in 20% of cases.

Of the five patients mentioned in Doktor's report, three had to have the infected tissue removed, a man had his hands and feet amputated, and one person died in the hospital.

Vibrio vulnificus
Vibrio vulnificus

The New England Journal of Medicine, 2018.

The range of bacteria is increasing due to warming waters

According to the authors of the case report, climate change is partly responsible for the growing diversity of this deadly bacterium. Last year was the hottest year ever recorded for the Earth's oceans, and warmer waters "are associated with changes in the quantity, distribution and seasonal windows" of V. vulnificus, have said the authors.

This most likely explains why infections occur more frequently outside the traditional geographical boundaries of these bacteria, they wrote.

"The bacteria like warm, salty water," said Doktor, adding that cases peaked between late July and early October, when the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay were the hottest.

Doktor added that the case report was meant to alert clinicians in the Delaware Bay area that they could be more infected with this type of infection than before and urge them to consider as a diagnosis when patients have wounds corresponding to V. vulnificus exposure.

Blunt oysters
Blunt oysters

Ian Waldie / Getty Images

Vibrio infections have also been reported in Europe and, in 2018, a South Korean man had to be amputated from the left forearm after contracting the infection following the consumption of raw seafood .

Vibrio is not the only infectious disease to spread because of global warming

Doktor said that patients who contracted a serious Vibrio infection – like those mentioned in the case report – generally presented with other risk factors, such as a liver disease, diabetes or diabetes. ;hepatitis.

"People who do not have health problems and who are exposed to a bacteria may feel a bit sick," she said, although it is always a good idea to avoid consume raw or undercooked shellfish.

But Doktor added that experts studying infectious diseases were not just concerned with V. vulnificus.

"We are worried about infections that were once considered only tropical as they could now occur in warmer latitudes," she said.

A study published in March predicted that climate change would most likely affect the range and distribution of mosquitoes carrying Zika virus and dengue fever. According to this study, nearly 500 million new people could be exposed to these diseases by 2050.

mosquito Aedes aegypti zika virus bite to the blood
mosquito Aedes aegypti zika virus bite to the blood


If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase relentlessly, nearly one billion new people are expected to be exposed to these disease-carrying mosquito species by 2080.

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