Facts on Flesh Eating Bacteria in Florida Waters

Below is a statement and a fact sheet from the Florida Department of Health regarding Necrotizing Fascitis, a flesh-eating bacteria that impacted several swimmers earlier this summer.

“Beaches are open and they are safe for visitors, but use caution when entering an open body of water. If you have breaks in the skin such as cuts or sores, avoid getting in the water. If you are immunocompromised, wear shoes or foot protection to avoid getting cut by shells or rocks on the beach or in the water.” – Florida Department of Health

INFORMATION ABOUT NECROTIZING FASCIITIS

  • Information has been circulating on social media/media outlets of an individual who
    developed an infection after visiting our region. The Florida Department of Health is
    taking this issue seriously and are working with the Indiana Department of Health to
    determine if this infection was caused by bacteria such as Vibrio vulnificus or other
    reportable disease. Currently, we do not have any information about this individual’s
    illness.
  • People do not “catch” necrotizing fasciitis; it is a complication or symptom of a
    bacterial infection that has not been promptly or properly treated.
  • Sometimes people call Vibrio vulnificus the “flesh eating bacteria.” Vibrio vulnificus is
    a naturally occurring bacteria found in warm salty waters such as the Gulf of Mexico
    and surrounding bays. Concentrations of this bacteria are higher when the water is
    warmer.
  • Necrotizing fasciitis (many times called “flesh eating bacteria” by the media) is
    caused by more than one type of bacteria. Several bacteria, common in our
    environment can cause this condition – the most common cause of necrotizing
    fasciitis is Group A strep.

Necrotizing fasciitis and severe infections with Vibrio vulnificus are rare. These
infections can be treated with antibiotics and sometimes require surgery to remove
damaged tissue. Rapid diagnosis is the key to effective treatment and recovery.

If you are healthy with a strong immune system, your chances of developing or
having complications due to this condition are extremely low.

HOW TO REDUCE YOUR RISK OF EXPOSURE

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages all people to
avoid open bodies of water (such as the Gulf), pools and hot tubs with breaks in
the skin. These can include cuts and scrapes, burns, insect bites, puncture
wounds, or surgical wounds.

The Florida Department of Health and the CDC encourage good wound care, as
the best way to prevent any bacterial skin infection. Keep open wounds covered
with clean, dry bandages until healed and don’t delay first aid of even minor, noninfected wounds like blisters, scrapes or any break in the skin.
You can prevent these types of infections when at the beach or bay by:
o Avoiding walking, sitting, or swimming in Gulf or bay waters with open
wounds,
o Properly cleaning and treating wounds with warm water and soap after:
 Accidentally exposing a wound to Gulf or bay waters,
 Getting an injured while in the water, or
 Getting an injury while cleaning or handling seafood.
 Seeking medical treatment immediately if you develop signs or symptoms of an
infection (redness, swelling, fever, severe pain in area of red or swollen skin)
near or around a wound.

INFORMATION ABOUT NECROTIZING FASCIITIS
 People with the greatest risk of exposure to bacteria in water bodies, pools or
hots tubs are very young children, the elderly (>64 years old), and people with
chronic diseases and/or weaken immune systems since their ability to fight off
infection can be limited by disease or age. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the
Gulf, bay, pools or hot tubs. Rather you are encouraged to monitor your overall
health and skin condition for possible signs of infection.
 It is important for individuals receiving medical care to let their doctor know of any
recent exposure to Gulf or bay waters, pools or hot tubs. Timely treatment is
necessary to prevent serious complications