Vibrio vulnificus, commonly known as a flesh eating bacteria, had a huge spike in infections and deaths caused by the floods of hurricane Ian. 

This year, there have been 70 reported cases and 14 deaths in the state of Florida. David Tomasko, Director of Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, says vibrio vulnificus infection brings about a 20% mortality rate.

This year, in Lee county alone, there have been 28 cases, and 6  deaths. David Tomasko says this spike in infections is caused by flooding from hurricane Ian.

“Ya, basically in Lee county, the amount of cases of vibrio vulnificus in Lee county, that one county alone, out of like 67 counties, was pretty much almost what the whole state would get in a typical year”, said David Tomasko.

Tomasko warns us not to go into the water, with an open wound. He says this is a cause in getting the infection.

Michael Drennon, Disease Intervention Services Program Manager, says the bacteria thrives in warm and salty water. He says if an open wound is exposed to water, you should wash it with fresh water, and soap, then bandage it.

“If it’s a deep laceration or something like that, you want to seek medical care, so a doctor can evaluate it. If it’s something that doesn’t require immediate medical attention, just keep an eye on it. If it starts to drain puss or fluid, becomes warm to the touch, looks infected, you should seek medical attention immediately”, said Michael Drennon.

Drennon says another symptom to an open laceration infection of the bacteria is a fever.

Tomasko says a lot of decomposing matter filtered into the flood waters from the heavy rains of Ian, making the virus higher in count.

Drennon says the flesh eating bacteria doesn’t come from decomposing matter, but it rather serves as a fuel to increase population.

Vibrio vulnificus is not the only bacteria we should be worried about, according to Drennon.

“Vibrio vulnificus is just one of many different vibrio bacteria. Multiples can cause infections. And they can be in salt water. So we have to be careful of something, we have to be mindful of when we live in an area where people frequently play or work around salt water”, said Michael Drennon.

Drennon also warns us; eating raw shellfish can also cause the infection.

Red tide is still heavily present on the Suncoast, but red tide and vibrio vulnificus are not related.