Vibrio Vulnificus Causes Deaths in Florida

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Patty Konietzky's husband developed a small purple lesion on his ankle. At first, they paid little attention to it, thinking that it was only a spider bite. However, when the lesion began spreading across his leg, it quickly alarmed both Patty and her husband.

Patty rushed her husband to the hospital, and a day and a half later he was dead.

"I thought the doctors would treat him with antibiotics and we'd go home," said Patty, "Never in a million years it crossed my mind that this is where I'd be today."

The cause of his death: vibrio vulnificus. Patty and her husband lived in Palm Coast, Florida, where he likely contracted the disease while swimming in the salty water.

According to the CDC, vibrio vulnificus is described as:

V. vulnificus can cause disease in those who eat contaminated seafood or have an open wound that is exposed to seawater. Among healthy people, ingestion of V. vulnificus can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. In immunocompromised persons, particularly those with chronic liver disease, V. vulnificus can infect the bloodstream, causing a severe and life-threatening illness characterized by fever and chills, decreased blood pressure (septic shock), and blistering skin lesions. V. vulnificus bloodstream infections are fatal about 50% of the time.

V. vulnificus can cause an infection of the skin when open wounds are exposed to warm seawater; these infections may lead to skin breakdown and ulceration. Persons who are immunocompromised are at higher risk for invasion of the organism into the bloodstream and potentially fatal complications.

So far, this year, 31 people across Florida have been infected, and 10 have died. However, despite the recent cases, a spokeswoman for the state health department in Lee County, says, "This is nothing abnormal. We don't believe there is any greater risk for someone to swim in the Gulf today than there was yesterday or 10 years ago."

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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