Florida health officials have issued a warning to beachgoers about a seawater bacterium that can invade cuts and scrapes and lead to flesh-eating disease.
Vibrio vulnificus –- a cousin of the bacterium that causes Cholera –- thrives in warm saltwater, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If ingested, it can cause stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea. But it can also infect open wounds and lead to “skin breakdown and ulceration,” according to the CDC.
“Since it is naturally found in warm marine waters, people with open wounds can be exposed to Vibrio vulnificus through direct contact with seawater,” the Florida Department of Health said in a statement.
The infection can also be transmitted through eating or handling contaminated oysters and other shellfish, according to the CDC.
At least 11 Floridians have contracted Vibrio vulnificus so far this year and two have died, according to ABC News. Most people who contract Vibrio vulnificus infection recover with the help of antibiotics, but severe skin infections may require surgery and amputation, according to the CDC.