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Hurricane Ian has led to an increase in reported infections of a rare flesh-eating bacteria in Florida. According to the Florida Department of Health, there were 65 cases of Vibrio vulnificus and 11 deaths in the state so far this year as of Friday, Oct 14. This was a significant increase from 34 cases and 10 deaths reported in all of 2021.

The majority of the infections which were being referred to as "flesh-eating" bacterial infections were in Lee County, where Ian made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on 28 September.

All but two of the 29 infections and four deaths recorded in Lee County were diagnosed after the hurricane, said reports.

Three cases considered storm-related were reported by Collier County.

Spokesperson Tammy Soliz through an email told the media

“As the post-storm situation evolves, DOH-Lee is urging the public to take precautions against infection and illness caused by Vibrio vulnificus.”

“DOH-Lee is observing an abnormal increase in cases of Vibrio vulnificus infections as a result of exposure to the flood waters and standing waters following Hurricane Ian. Since September 29, 2022, 26 cases of Vibrio vulnificus associated with Hurricane Ian have been reported to DOH-Lee. All 26 cases had wound infectious with exposure to Hurricane Ian flood waters that occurred from the storm surge entering their homes or during post-storm clean-up. There have been six deaths among Lee County residents,” he added.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Vibrio vulnificus is considered "flesh-eating" because infections can lead to a severe condition in which the flesh around an open wound dies. It is not the only type of bacteria that can cause the infection.

The Florida Department of Health said Vibrio vulnificus normally lives in warm brackish seawater and infections are rare.

In a fact sheet on floodwater safety, it said people with open cuts and wounds should avoid skin contact with floodwaters.

Eating raw shellfish, especially oysters can also lead to people getting infected with the bacteria.

Vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain can be caused by infections from Vibrio vulnificus. It can also invade the bloodstream and cause severe and life-threatening illnesses with symptoms like fever, chills, decreased blood pressure, and blistering skin lesions.

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