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Florida reports rise in flesh-eating bacterial infections

The state Health Department has reported 65 vibrio vulnificus infections and 11 deaths this year, compared with 34 cases and 10 deaths last year.
A man tows a canoe through a flooded street in New Smyrna Beach, Florida
A man tows a canoe through a flooded street in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., on Sept. 30. Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images file
/ Source: Associated Press

Florida has seen an increase in cases of flesh-eating bacteria this year driven largely by a surge in the county hit hardest by Hurricane Ian.

The state Department of Health reports that as of Friday there have been 65 cases of vibrio vulnificus infections and 11 deaths in Florida this year. That compares with 34 cases and 10 deaths reported during all of 2021.

In Lee County, where Ian stormed ashore last month, the health department reports 29 cases this year and four deaths.

Health officials didn’t give a breakdown of how many of the cases were before or after Ian struck.

Lee County health officials earlier this month warned people that the post-hurricane environment — including warm, standing water — could pose a danger from the potentially deadly bacteria.

“Flood waters and standing waters following a hurricane pose many risks, including infectious diseases such as vibrio vulnificus,” the county health department said in a news release Oct. 3 that urged the public to take precautions.

The advisory said that people with open wounds, cuts, or scratches can be exposed to the bacteria through contact with sea water or brackish water. People with open wounds should avoid such water and seek medical care immediately if an infection is apparent.