WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- In 2019, most cases of people contracting the flesh-eating bacteria were reported in the southern areas of the Eastern Seaboard.
- This is because the deadly bacteria thrive most in these waters which have temperatures that stay more than 55 degrees the whole year.
- However, a new study revealed that the vibrio species of the bacteria are now reaching the north because of climate change.
As the waters in U.S. beaches warm up during summer, cases of flesh-eating bacteria also start to increase. Depending on the type, the bacteria which can be lethal, grows in waters with year-round above 55 degrees temperatures, pointing to the southern regions of the Atlantic coastline as a common source of cases.
Several people have reported about contracting flesh-eating bacteria in 2019. Most cases needed hospitalization and even surgery after swimming in places such as Florida, Texas and Maryland. Sadly, three people died after getting infected with necrotizing fasciitis-the most deadly type of the bacteria which attacks the skin causing it to rot and causes organs to shut down.
Among the reported cases, eight happened in the Gulf of Mexico where the particularly vibrio species of the bacteria have thrived for years due to its warm waters all year long. Cases included a man fishing in Ozona, Florida, a 12-year-old girl in Destin, Florida and a 77-year-old woman who died in the same state after walking along the Coquina Beach.
Five other people who contracted the flesh-eating bacteria after the Fourth of July weekend included a man in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida; one woman in California, and two men from Okaloosa County, Florida and Magnolia Beach in Texas, respectively, who both died from necrotizing fasciitis.
Other reported cases came from Waterloo, Alabama, Ocean View Beach near Norfolk, Virginia, another at Colonial Beach, Virginia, one at Ocean City and one from Kentucky’s Green River.
According to a new study, although the majority of the cases are found in the Eastern Seaboard’s southern portion, the flesh-eating bacteria vibrio is already spreading north due to climate change. This was evidenced by five reported cases where the bacteria were contracted in the Delaware Bay between 2017 and 2018.
“We believe that clinicians should be aware of the possibility that V. vulnificus infections are occurring more frequently outside traditional geographic areas,” wrote the authors, according to CBS.
Despite this, people need not fear the water because necrotizing fasciitis is extremely rare, with just about 20,000 cases reported each year. The Centers for Disease Control says that if you’re healthy and have a strong immune system, chances of contracting it is very remote.
Good hygiene plays a vital role in prevention. After swimming, make sure to shower and keep all wounds dry and covered with clean bandages. Avoid bodies of water like swimming pools and hot tubs if you have open and active infections.