A microscope’s view of the bacteria ‘Vibrio vulnificus.’CDC/James Gathany
The media has already dubbed it the “flesh-eating” bacterium. Vibrio vulnificus lives in coastal waters, including salt water and brackish water, and U.S. health authorities have warned of its presence in the Gulf of Mexico, the Mexican Caribbean and the U.S. East Coast.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a health advisory warning that “many people with V. vulnificus wound infection require intensive care or surgical tissue removal.” Severe cases might require “amputation of the infected limb.”
At least six people have died in the East Coast after being infected, said the CDC. The agency noted that about 150–200 V. vulnificus infections are reported each year and about one in five people with the infection die, “sometimes within 1–2 days of becoming ill.”
The bacterium attracted media attention a few days ago, when the American army veteran and model Jennifer Barlow revealed that she suffered a Vibrio vulnificus infection after a vacation in the Bahamas. The woman shared on her social media accounts that she had just returned to Atlanta from her vacation in January when she began to notice a swelling in her left leg. “It was so swollen — it was at least three times the size of my left knee. It was really scary,” she told Today. She went to the emergency room, where doctors misdiagnosed it as a swollen knee and prescribed rest and crutches.
Left, Jennifer Barlow in the Bahamas, and right, in hospital after contracting the infection. Images shared on her social media accounts.
When Barlow fainted at her brother’s house and was taken to a hospital, doctors took it more seriously and determined she had a Vibrio vulnificus infection. After fearing for her life, they eventually amputated her infected leg.
So-called “superbacteria” have become a cause of high mortality in the world and now kill more people than AIDS, malaria and some cancers. A report published this year in the medical journal The Lancet reveals that infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria kill 1.2 million people a year.
Infections can occur when the bacteria come into contact with open wounds on the skin, but also by eating raw or undercooked shellfish such as oysters. Symptoms include diarrhea, stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition
#warns #deadly #bacteria #warming #waters #Gulf #Mexico #East #Coast