Flesh Eating Bacteria in Florida Water

School is starting up again in Pasco and Hillsborough County however that does not mean summer is over.  It is still very much beach season in sunny Florida. Just because the crowds have died down doesn’t mean the hidden dangers of the ocean have gone away.

One popular question I get a lot from patients with wounds or who have recently undergone a medical procedure is if they can go swimming in the ocean.  Unless they have completely healed, the answer is, “NO!”  There is an old-wives tale that soaking your wounds in salt water will help it heal faster.  In reality, open water is very dirty and filled with a lot harmful organisms.  This bacteria doesn’t break down healthy skin but if it gets into an open cut or sore, it may lead to severe bacterial blood and skin infection.

There have been several reports of flesh eating bacteria also known as Vibrio vulnificus.  Between 2008 and 2017, the Florida Department of Health Reported over 346 incidences with 99 resulting in death.  This year, there have been 16 confirmed infections resulting in 3 deaths.

There are many precautions you can take to avoid getting infected by the flesh eating bacteria.

  • Consider wearing water shoes when wading in the water or using gloves when handling any fish or marine life.
  • If you have a cut, it is best to avoid the water completely.  If you can’t, make sure you use soap and wash thorough after you get out of the water.
  • Be extra cautious if you are diabetic or have a weak immune system. The bacteria has a higher chance if infecting you if that is the case.
  • Be familiar with the signs of infection which include pain, swelling, redness, and heat. If you exhibit any of these symptoms around your wound, get medical attention immediately.  Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to preventing a serious problem.

If you believe that you have a Vibrio infection call us at (813) 388-9801 for a same-day appointment at one of our conveniently located offices in South Tampa, North Tampa, Brooksville, and Wesley Chapel.   Otherwise seek immediate medical attention at a nearby hospital.  Enjoy the rest of summer and be safe!

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