Science

Florida county sees spike in fatal infections

Recovery efforts are underway in southwestern Florida as communities face new challenges in the aftermath Hurricane Ian, With property damage making the homes of thousands of residents habitable and displaced, people across the state are grappling with the environment dangers which can cause serious health hazards.

In Lee County — where Ian made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on September 28 — officials say storm surge and subsequent flooding led to an increase in potentially fatal infections caused by Vibrio vulnificus, which is a warm, salty water A species of bacteria found in Comes into contact with humans through raw or undercooked seafood. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it can also enter the body through cuts and other open wounds, and cause serious skin infections that can be life-threatening.

Vibrio vulnificus has been informally described as a “flesh-eating” bacteria because the primary infections The skin can quickly turn into necrotizing fasciitis, a rare condition that causes tissue breakdown and sometimes requires amputation to prevent further spread.

Infection, whether acquired through food or direct contact with contaminated water, “can cause serious illness or death,” the Lee County Health Department said in a news release posted on October 3 just after the storm. “

US-Weather-Storm-IAN
People in a canoe next to a submerged car after Hurricane Ian on September 29, 2022 in Orlando, Florida.

Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images


At that time, health officials were already beginning to see an increase in Vibrio vulnificus infections, which continued to rise until the following week. At least 29 cases and four deaths have been confirmed in Lee County this year as a result of such infections, according to state data last updated on Friday. All two cases were diagnosed after the storm.

A spokeswoman for the county health department said in a statement to CBS, “The Florida Department of Health in Lee County is seeing an unusual increase in cases of Vibrio vulnificus infection exposed to floodwater and standing water following Hurricane Ian. ” News Monday, which said community members should “always be aware of the potential risks associated when exposing an open wound, cut, or scratch on the skin to hot, salty, or salt water.”

“Sewage spills caused by Hurricane Ian can increase bacterial levels,” the statement continued. “As post-storm conditions develop, individuals should take precautions against infection and disease caused by Vibrio vulnificus.”

People with weakened immune systems, especially those with chronic liver disease or who take immunosuppressant medication, are at particular risk of developing serious complications from infection with Vibrio vulnificus, the Department of Health said.

If it enters the bloodstream, bacteria can cause sepsis, which occurs when an infection triggers an excessive immune response leading to organ failure and sometimes death. Early symptoms include fever and chills, while in later stages the disease may cause a drop in blood pressure and blistering skin lesions.

Florida health officials track confirmed cases of Vibrio vulnificus infections and related deaths throughout the state throughout the year. Collier County, with three confirmed cases in 2022 and one diagnosed since the storm, is the only other region to see an unusual increase in infections due to the storm.

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