Flesh eating bacteria kills 11 people after Hurricane Ian as infections rise due to flood water exposure
LEE COUNTY, FLORIDA: Floridians cannot catch a break! Almost three weeks after Hurricane Ian ravaged the coastal areas of the state, they’ve got a new enemy to fight - a flesh eating bacteria named Vibrio vulnificus. This is a microbe mostly found in seawater, and has already killed many. Atleast 11 people have been proclaimed dead and 64 others have been affected this year.
“The Gulf Coast is the epicenter of disease like this,” Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “You have a mix of climate change, poverty and aggressive urbanization, all contributing to the exacerbation of vibrio infections and an increase of other diseases like dengue, zika and parasitic infections.”
As of Friday, Florida reported 65 infections of Vibrio vulnificus this year, while there were only 37 cases reported prior to the storm that made landfall on September 28, according to Florida Department of Health data. Most of the newer cases come from Lee County, which comprises of Fort Myers and Sanibel Island - both of which suffered greatly during Hurricane Ian.
“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,” Lee County Department of Health spokesperson Tammy Soliz told CNN, according to the New York Post.
“Since September 29, 2022, 26 cases of Vibrio vulnificus associated with Hurricane Ian have been reported to DOH-Lee. All 26 cases had wound infections 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.”
While 11 people have died of this virus in just the last month, it must be noted that there were only 10 deaths in the whole year in 2021.
Florida health officials have warned the people of the area and have ensured increased awareness of the effects of the hurricane. The citizens of Florida have been informed that the flesh eating bacteria lives in warm seawater and may also survive on sewage spills in coastal waters.
This comes during the wake of repairs having begun in Florida in areas affected severely by the hurricane.