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The Alabama Department of Public Health sent a warning to residents in the area after four cases of flesh-eating bacteria called Vibrio were reported. Vibrio is usually described as a flesh eating bug that can lead to amputation, and sometimes death. As of now, authorities announces six other cases are allegedly under review, but how dangerous is it to swim in Alabama waters?

Dr. Sinead Ni Chadian, a Microbiologist form the University of South Alabama spoke to WSFA local news station in Alabama stating,

“Vibrios are naturally occurring bacteria. They’re always in our coastal waters, but they increase in abundance when the waters warm up – above 68 degrees or so, roughly May-October in the Gulf. This unfortunately coincides with when we like to go swimming. There are many Vibrio species, but two species, Vibrio Vulnificus and Vibrio Parahaemolyticus, cause most of the infections we hear about on the Gulf coast. Vv causes the skin infections that make the news.”

After doing several vibriosis investigations, the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention estimate that over 80,000 people become sick with the virus each year, of those, 100 die from the infection due to poor treatment.

The bacteria can usually be found in the Gulf of Mexico where there is a mixture of fresh water and salt water, often found where rivers meet the sea. ADPH stated that the bacteria usually latches on to someone where there is an open wound, cut, abrasion or sore that can become a point of entry.

To further avoid this bacteria, health officials recommend anyone with a weak immune system, diabetes, chronic condition, or liver disease not to eat undercooked seafood, such as raw oysters. Why? Vibrio bacteria is known for roaming in coastal waters where oysters live. Since oysters feed by littering water, the bacteria can concentrate inside their tissues.

Once the bacteria gets in your body, it can easily multiply and get into your bloodstream, spreading throughout.
How can one tell if they have been infected? Usually, there is a body part that begins to swell, there might be a boil developing, or there is an open would somewhere on the body that is hot to the touch. One might also have abdominal pain or cramping, vomiting, fever, chills, and nausea that can occur within 24 hours of ingestion, lasting up to 3 days.

The Health Department did state that although the small number of cases involving Vibriosis have been mild, they are asking everyone to stay alert and seek medical attention if needed to avoid the bacteria. If you think you might have been infected, make sure and call your doctor or go to the emergency room. Usually, experts will conduct a blood test or check your skin for any signs. The doctor might then prescribe antibiotics to fight the infection if needed.

To find more about Vibrios, you can visit the Alabama Public Health site.

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