How to avoid flesh eating bacteria

In the summer, the sun heats up Louisiana waters making it the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. This year, four people have become infected with the flesh-eating bacteria called vibrio vulnificus.

Since water recreation is common in the summer months, Infection Preventionist Rachel Brunt says the risk of infection goes up.

“Anybody is susceptible to contracting and coming in contact and developing this bacteria,” said Brunt. “But more commonly, we see the worst infections in those that are immune- compromised.”

Dr. Tina Stefanski with the Office of Public Health says people with pre-existing medical conditions are 80% more likely to develop the vibrio infection than healthy people.

“Chronic alcoholism, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease-people with those types of conditions,” said Stefanski. “Also, people with cancer, undergoing chemo, those people to need to be particularly aware.”

Stefanski recommends covering up any open wounds or cuts with a waterproof bandage before any salt-water contact. Showers can also help and cleaning any new cuts appropriately.

Health experts say avoid using hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can actually break down skin tissue and make the infection worse. The best way to clean a cut is to use soap and water as soon as possible.

Even for healthy people, the bacteria can cause gastro-intestinal problems. So in the summer months, precaution is the key.

“Anytime you're going to be in contact with warm, salt water, be aware that bacteria is present and if you eat seafood, make sure it's cooked thoroughly,” said Stefanksi.

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