Urgent warning after 5 killed by 'flesh-eating bacteria' lurking in waters off the East Coast | The Sun

FIVE people have died after developing a 'flesh-eating' bug after swimming off the east coast of America.

One person in Connecticut, another in New York and three people in North Carolina, died between July and August this year after being infected with Vibrio vulnificus.

This a deadly species of bacteria that lives in coastal waters, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report.

"Many of these infections were acquired after an open wound was exposed to coastal waters in those states," the health watchdog wrote, though it noted that some of these infections could have been caused by the consumption of raw or under-cooked seafood.

Between 150 and 200 V. vulnificus infections are reported to CDC each year and about one in five people with this infection die, it added, "sometimes within one to two days of becoming ill".

Though the bacteria naturally live in coastal waters, the heat waves and "above-average coastal sea surface temperatures" seen this summer have lead the species to thrive in the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico.

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The CDC explained that extreme weather events, such as coastal floods, hurricanes, and storm surges, can force coastal waters into inland areas, putting people that are exposed to these waters at increased risk of the deadly flesh eating infection.

In fact, this happened last year in Florida after Hurricane Ian, the CDC noted.

Swathes of brown algae steeped in V. vulnificus started blanketing South Florida beaches in June, with holidaymakers and beach-goers warned to steer clear for the seaweed for fear of contracting life-threatening "flesh-eating" infections.

The CDC asked beach-goers to take a number of precautions in order to keep themselves safe.

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Firstly, they advised you stay avoid taking a dip or wading through salt water and brackish water – a mixture of freshwater and seawater – if you've got an open wound or cut.

This includes wounds from a recent surgery, piercing, tattoo, and other cuts or scrapes, the CDC noted.

If you sustain a cut while you're in the water, you should get out immediately.

You should wash your cuts or thoroughly with soap and clean, running water.

And if there's any chance your cuts could come into contact with brackish or salt water – or drippings from raw or undercooked seafood – you should cover them completely with a waterproof dressing.

Their guidance also extended to handling and cooking seafood, as it can also be carrier of the deadly bacteria.

The CDC advised you cook raw oysters and shellfish before indulging in them, and always wash your hands after handling them raw.

If your wounds do get infected, it's important to seek medical attention immediately.

Signs of a Vibrio vulnificus infection

Vibrio can also enter the bloodstream through a break in the skin, in rare cases causing a "flesh-eating" infection called necrotising fasciitis.

Necrotising fasciitis is a rare but serious bacterial infection that affects the tissue beneath the skin and surrounding muscles and organs.

The bacteria can spread in a matter of hours – even from a minorcut or scrape – and is life-threatening if it's not treated early enough.

People can also get ill if they eat seafood that contains the bacteria.

According to the CDC, early symptoms of a Vibrio infection include:

  • Watery diarrhea and stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Fever and chills
  • Blistering skin, which may present as black dots
  • Low blood pressure
  • Pain, swelling, or warmth around an infected wound

Meanwhile, according to the NHS, initial symptoms of necrotising fasciitis include:

  • Intense pain or loss of feeling near to a cut or wound – the pain may seem much worse than you would usually expect from a cut or wound
  • Swelling of the skin around the affected area
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as a high temperature, headache and tiredness

Later symptoms can include:

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  • Being sick (vomiting) and diarrhoea
  • Confusion
  • Black, purple or grey blotches and blisters on the skin (these may be less obvious on black or brown skin)

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