(The Hill) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning doctors to be on the lookout for deadly flesh-eating bacteria that may be in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast. The bacteria is known as Vibrio vulnificus or V. vulnificus.
The CDC issued the health advisory last week to urge healthcare providers to consider it as the possible cause of infected wounds from people who have been in coastal waters.
The advisory said that the bacteria naturally live in coastal waters and that V. vulnificus is primarily transmitted through open-wound contact. It also has been transmitted in 10 percent of cases through eating raw or undercooked shellfish.
“V. vulnificus wound infections have a short incubation period and are characterized by necrotizing skin and soft tissue infection, with or without hemorrhagic bullae,” the CDC warned. “Many people with V. vulnificus wound infection require intensive care or surgical tissue removal.”
The CDC said that the heat wave and rising sea surface temperatures likely contributed to the growing range of infections and noted that fatal infections have been reported in New York, Connecticut, and North Carolina.
Amid increasing water temperatures and extreme weather events (e.g., heat waves, flooding, and severe storms) associated with climate change, people who are at increased risk for V. vulnificus infection should exercise caution when engaging in coastal water activities, the CDC said.