The death of a Flagler County man has led local health departments to spread the word about vibrio vulnificus, a dangerous bacteria that is found along the Florida coast.
The bacteria can also be ingested through contaminated food.
In addition to the fatal Flagler case, two cases have been reported in Volusia, one in Brevard and three in Hillsborough, said Nathan Dunn, state Department of Health communications director. Details of the fatal case were not immediately available.
In all, 26 cases of vibrio vulnificus have been reported in Florida this year, Dunn said.
Volusia County Health Department spokeswoman Stefany Strong said Sunday that one of the Volusia cases came from exposure to bacteria in the Halifax River. The other was a man who'd eaten raw oysters in Louisiana and became ill when he returned home.
What is vibrio vulnificus?
Part of the same family of bacteria that causes cholera, it requires salt to survive, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. It usually pops up during the summer months in the warm Gulf coast waters.
•Where is it found?
It lives in warm seawater. Swimmers who have open wounds can be exposed to the bacteria. It is also found in contaminated raw seafood, especially oysters, according to the CDC.
•What are the symptoms?
Healthy people who become infected can experience vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, according to the CDC. For people with an impaired immune system, especially those with chronic liver disease, vibrio vulnificus can infect the bloodstream, causing severe, life-threatening illness with fever, chills, decreased blood pressure and blistering lesions on the skin.
• Can you die from it?
On average blood infections involving vibrio vulnificus are fatal 50 percent of the time, according to the CDC.
• What is its history in the U.S.?
The CDC received reports of more than 900 infections from the Gulf Coast states, where most cases occur, between 1988 and 2006.
• What should someone who gets vibrio vulnificus do first?
See a doctor immediately since antibiotics improve chances of survival.