Vibrio-related death confirmed in Escambia County

One person has died in Escambia County from Vibrio vulnificus, a naturally occurring bacteria that thrives in warm, brackish seawater.

According to Tiffany Cowie, communications director with the state Department of Health, the details of exposure are unknown at this time. The department would not release any additional information, including the age of the person or when the death occurred.

While infections are rare, Cowie said people can become infected when eating raw shellfish or swimming with open wounds.

There have been 19 confirmed cases of Vibrio vulnificus and 10 deaths reported in Florida this year.

Dr. Michael Mack, an emergency room physician at Eglin Air Force Base, said last month that vibrio is always present in brackish water and people with cuts or scrapes should avoid brackish seawater, such as Santa Rosa Sound.

People with compromised immune systems are also at risk for Vibrio vulnificus.

We’ll have more details if and when they become available.


Tips for preventing Vibrio vulnificus infections

■ Avoid exposure of open wounds or broken skin to warm salt or brackish water, or to raw shellfish harvested from such waters.

■ Wear protective clothing (e.g., gloves) when handling raw shellfish.

■ Do not eat raw oysters or other raw shellfish.

■ Cook shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels) thoroughly.

■ For shellfish in the shell, either a) boil until the shells open and continue boiling for 5 more minutes, or b) steam until the shells open and then continue cooking for 9 more minutes. Do not eat those shellfish that do not open during cooking. Boil shucked oysters at least 3 minutes, or fry them in oil at least 10 minutes at 375°F.

■ Avoid cross-contamination of cooked seafood and other foods with raw seafood and juices from raw seafood.

■ Eat shellfish promptly after cooking and refrigerate leftovers. 

Source: Florida Department of Health

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