“Flesh-eating” bacteria that live in the ocean may be spreading to previously unaffected beach waters.

Newly, some extremely rare cases have been reported in Delaware Bay, where the water normally is too cold for the bacterium to survive.

flesh eating bacteria, flesh-eating bacteria, flesh-eating bacteria video, flesh-eating bacteria picture
flesh-eating bacteria. Picture by Shutterstock

The new report describes five cases of severe flesh-eating bacterial infections in people who were exposed to water or seafood from the Delaware Bay, which sits between Delaware and New Jersey.

Such infections have historically been rare in the Delaware Bay, as the bacterium responsible for the disease, called Vibrio vulnificus, prefers warmer waters, such as those in the Gulf of Mexico.

But with rising ocean temperatures, V. vulnificus may be moving farther north, making these infections in areas previously off-limits, the authors said.

We believe that clinicians should be aware of the possibility that V. vulnificus infections are occurring more frequently outside traditional geographic areas,” the authors wrote.

The dangerous flesh-eating bacteria

V. vulnificus lives in ocean waters that are above 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius).

People can become infected with the bacteria in two ways:

  • if they consume contaminated seafood
  • if they have an open wound that comes into direct contact with seawater containing the bacteria.
Who's most at risk of flesh-eating bacteria?
Who’s most at risk of flesh-eating bacteria? via ABC News

Although most people infected with V. vulnificus will develop only mild symptoms, some people develop life-threatening skin or bloodstream infections. V. vulnificus can cause necrotizing fasciitis, a rare “flesh-eating” infection that rapidly destroys skin and muscle tissue. This can result in amputations or even death.

Rise in severe infection

The authors noted that from 2008 to 2016, their hospital saw just one case of V. vulnificus infection. But in the summers of 2017 and 2018, that number jumped to five cases.

All of these patients had either gone crabbing in the Delaware Bay or consumed seafood from the area, and all of the patients developed necrotizing fasciitis. One patient died.

Necrotizing fasciitis is horrifying

In one case, a 46-year-old man sustained a minor injury to his leg while crabbing. Two days later, he developed progressive pain, swelling and blistering of his injured leg, which turned out to be an infection caused by V. vulnificus. He needed emergency surgery to remove dead tissue from his leg, and he needed skin grafts to repair large wounds.

In another case, a 64-year-old man developed severe swelling and fluid-filled blisters on his right hand after cleaning and eating crabs. Despite undergoing emergency surgery, he developed an abnormal heart rate and soon died.

"Flesh-eating" bacteria that live in the ocean may be spreading to previously unaffected beach waters thanks to climate change
“Flesh-eating” bacteria that live in the ocean may be spreading to previously unaffected beach waters thanks to climate change. Picture FACEBOOK.COM/ NICOLE MYRE BRIGGS via health.com

And a 60-year-old man who went crabbing and ate a dozen crabs from the Delaware Bay developed progressive swelling in his right leg. He required surgery to relieve pressure in his leg. But his condition worsened and spread to his other limbs; doctors eventually needed to amputate all four limbs, though the man did survive.

Severe infections mainly if..

Necrotizing fasciitis infections with V. vulnificus usually don’t occur in people with healthy immune systems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People are at increased risk of V. vulnificus infections if they have chronic liver disease or other conditions that weaken their immune systems. Of the five cases described in the new report, three individuals had hepatitis B or C and one had diabetes.

To prevent infection with V. vulnificus, the CDC recommends that people with open wounds avoid contact with salt or brackish water or cover their wounds with a waterproof bandage. To reduce the chances of catching the disease, it’s also recommended that people avoid eating raw or undercooked shellfish, the CDC said.

OMG! Hopefully we will never be devoured by these flesh-eating bacteria! Take care!

[Annals, LiveScience]

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16 COMMENTS

  1. it’s only happening to whites for what they done to blacks the original people. it cannot be stopped. this is just the beginning. much worse is on the way. 2020-2030 will be pure hell for whites the same way they have to everyone else.

  2. Dejelari, God bless you in the name of Jesus. And that’s did to blacks, not done to blacks. About the original people. Have you ever taken colors starting with white and add blue or brown or black and come up with a dark color? Try reversing that, take blue, brown or black and see if you can get white. Things started out white and other colors were added but does it matter who came first? We are here in the now and hoping something comes on another – comes up against karma or in my case, Jesus.

  3. Just another person who can’t stop playing the victim and all because 1 white person said NO to him 15 years ago Dude needs to stop chasing the dragon and start chasing a life.

  4. So sad this is happening, but I live near the dirty Delaware River and no one in their right mind would fish in it (and then actually eat the stuff!) Smh

  5. you can get this from eating uncooked raw oysters. Never eat raw oysters. They can have red tide poisons also.

  6. This is not due to climate change so knock it off. The Ghanges is one of the most polluted in the world and they don’t have this.

    This has to do with too much clean living (no farm work and dirty garden hands) too much processed food (think sugar which bacteria and cancer like) and over use of antibiotics in food, chicken, cattle and humans.

    Now they say walking in your house with your dirty shoes on may prevent asthma. Don’t get so germophobic. Ironically, it’s killing us.

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