At least eight people have died in Florida this year as a result of an infection with a bacteria of the species Vibrio vulnificus, according to recent reports from US health authorities. This is the highest number of deaths in the state since 2018, when nine people died from the infection.
The bacterium Vibrio vulnificus, a relative of cholera, occurs naturally in warm sea waters. It can cause discomfort if a person eats undercooked seafood. However, it is much worse if the bacteria gets into an open wound.
As of early September, 20 people in the state have contracted Vibrio vulnificus, according to the Florida Department of Health. Eight people have died this year.
As noted by Gizmodo, this bacteria, found in the marine environment, can cause necrotizing fasciitis, a rapidly spreading but thankfully rare infection that eats away at the flesh and leads to tissue necrosis. It can then trigger sepsis, a potentially fatal immune system response to infection that can quickly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. Necrotizing fasciitis is extremely difficult to diagnose, as the only symptoms at an early stage are pain and fever.
Despite the fact that necrotizing fasciitis is extremely rare, some scientists fear that these infections may become more common in the coming years due to climate change. Rising water temperatures, rising sea levels and more frequent extreme weather events leading to flooding are all helping to spread Vibrio vulnificus.