When Hurricane Ian slammed into Lee County, Florida, as a near-Category 5 storm final month, it left in its wake not simply widespread destruction but in addition a surge of uncommon “flesh-eating” bacterial infections, state well being knowledge exhibits.
Flesh-eating bacteria may cause “necrotizing fasciitis” — an an infection that triggers aggressive irritation within the tissue surrounding muscle mass and different organs, inflicting that tissue to quickly die, based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (opens in new tab) (CDC). The bacteria enter the physique by means of damaged pores and skin, and necrotizing fasciitis can set in shortly thereafter, resulting in life-threatening problems like shock and organ failure. Up to twenty% of individuals with necrotizing fasciitis die, some inside days of the an infection’s begin.
The sort of flesh-eating bacteria behind Florida’s surge in infectionsis known as Vibrio vulnificus. The salt-loving bacteria will be present in heat, brackish water, which means a mixture of recent and salt water usually present in estuaries, salt marshes and the factors the place rivers meet the ocean, based on the CDC (opens in new tab). Concentrations of the bacteria are typically highest between May and October, when water temperatures rise, and the overwhelming majority of V. vulnificus infections happen in that point window. Hurricanes, storm surges and coastal flooding can increase the danger of an infection by growing the chance that folks are available contact with contaminated water.
“Flood waters and standing waters following a hurricane pose many risks, including infectious diseases such as Vibrio vulnificus,” the Florida Department of Health in Lee County warned (opens in new tab) shortly after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida. “For that reason, the Florida Department of Health in Lee County is urging the public to take precautions against infection and illness caused by Vibrio vulnificus.”
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Before the hurricane struck, 37 instances of V. vulnificus an infection had been reported for 2022 in Florida, based on Florida Department of Health data (opens in new tab). Shortly after the storm, the quantity shot as much as 65. Most of the newly reported instances occurred in Lee County, the place Ian made landfall, and one occurred in Collier County, its neighbor to the south. The department’s website (opens in new tab) notes that these counties skilled an “abnormal increase [in cases] due to the impacts of Hurricane Ian.”
Out of the 65 individuals with reported infections, 11 have died, based on the well being division.
In 2021, Florida reported 34 instances of V. vulnificus an infection, 10 of which had been deadly, and in 2020, the state reported 36 instances, seven of which had been deadly. The quantity of instances seen this 12 months is uncommon — for the reason that well being division started reporting knowledge in 2008, annual reported instances have typically ranged from 16 to 50 a 12 months.
Thankfully, for the reason that hurricane-related surge in an infection, the speed of new instances now appears to be waning, Florida Department of Health spokesperson Jae Williams stated Oct. 18, based on CNN (opens in new tab).
The Lee County residents who had been contaminated by V. vulnificus after the storm did so by means of “exposure to Hurricane Ian flood waters that occurred from the storm-surge entering their homes or during post-storm clean-up,” division spokesperson Tammy Soliz advised CNN in an e-mail. But because the storm waters have abated, so too have the flesh-eating bacterial infections.