As parents, many of us have seen news reports of a flesh eating bacteria found in the Gulf of Mexico. We were dismayed to read on foxnews.com that a Florida man died on June 16th after contracting this disease/bacteria. Surprisingly, the state health department has yet to issue a warning. According to an article (sited below), Cason Yeager, 26, of Fruitland Park, Fla., died June 16, two days after he and family went swimming in the Gulf of Mexico south of Pine Island. He contracted a flesh-destroying type of bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus, which belongs to the same family of organisms that cause cholera. Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium that lives in warm salt water, can be transmitted through contaminated seafood or an open wound exposed to seawater, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). When the bacteria infect the skin via open wounds, they release a toxin that can cause skin breakdown and ulcers. Illness usually begins within one to three days of exposure, but up to a week later for a small percentage of cases. Symptoms include fever, swelling and redness of skin on arms or legs, with blood-tinged blisters, low blood pressure and shock. Even an ant bite or any tiny wound can allow an entry point for the bacteria. Ingestion of the bacteria can trigger vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Yeager’s death certificate wasn’t signed by The Villages Regional Hospital until June 23, WTSP reported, and the state has yet to notify the public. According to Karen, her son was diagnosed with autoimmune disorder 10 years ago, but did not have problems since, and was healthy.
An average of 35 deaths nationwide are reported each year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About half come from five Gulf Coast states – Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. In Florida, Yeager is at least the fourth person to die this year from a Vibrio vulnificus infection, according to Florida Department of Health data. From 2008 through 2014, the state has averaged about nine deaths a year from the bacteria.
Educate yourself. Be aware of the possibility of contamination. Make sure to refrain from swimming in the Gulf of Mexico if you have open wounds or a weakened immune system. And always be cautious when eating uncooked or undercooked seafood.