Florida Sees Spike in Deadly Bacterial Infections After Hurricane Ian

Lisa O'Mary

October 20, 2022

Florida is seeing a spike in deadly infections caused by the “flesh-eating” bacterium Vibrio vulnificus following Hurricane Ian. 

At least four people have died and 29 have been infected in Lee County after the hurricane, Florida health officials said in a news release

Vibrio vulnificus is found in warm, brackish seawater, according to the Florida Department of Health. Anyone with open wounds or cuts should avoid standing water, floodwater or seawater in the area, health officials said. 

“Sewage spills in coastal waters, like those caused by Hurricane Ian, may increase bacteria levels,” the department advised in a news release. “People with open wounds, cuts, or scratches can be exposed to Vibrio vulnificus through direct contact with sea water or brackish water … Vibrio vulnificus can also cause disease in those who eat raw or undercooked oysters and shellfish.”

Infection can cause severe illness or death. Symptoms include fever, chills, decreased blood pressure and blistering skin lesions. The bacterium does not spread person-to-person.

“If someone is concerned that they may have been exposed to Vibrio vulnificus and are experiencing the above symptoms, they should seek medical attention immediately,” officials said in the statement.  “Individuals with wound infections should also seek care promptly.”


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