The Florida Department of Health recently reported that a rare type of flesh-eating bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, has caused the deaths of five individuals in the Tampa Bay area.
Those deaths occurred in Pasco, Polk, Sarasota, and Hillsborough counties since January of this year, according to the agency’s announcement.
There have been 26 reported cases across the state so far this year, while in 2022, there were 74 total cases and 17 deaths. That was likely in part due to Hurricane Ian making landfall last year.
The Florida Health website says that person can be infected with the bacteria after eating raw shellfish, namely oysters, or entering brackish seawater with an open wound. Brackish water occurs when freshwater mixes with ocean water, like when a river meets the sea.
“Individuals who are immunocompromised, e.g chronic liver disease, kidney disease, or weakened immune system, should wear proper foot protection to prevent cuts and injury caused by rocks and shells on the beach,” says Florida’s Health Department website.
Some Health officials called on people not to enter brackish water if they have fresh scrapes, cuts, or other skin abrasions.
“Whenever you have a break in the skin and you’re in a marine environment