As water temperatures rise, certain types of bacteria are more common in our warm ocean waters each summer – especially in states where water temperatures stay above 55 degrees year-round.
A type of harmful bacteria known as Vibrio vulnificus (carnivorous bacteria or necrotizing fasciitis) is found in these warm waters, and the likelihood of infection may increase if the number of people who enjoy summer water-related activities , increases.
While these types of bacteria are a problem during this time of year, know that you can take water safety precautions to keep you and your family safe.
- If you have a compromised immune system, an open cut or wound, or a chronic skin condition, stay away from warm sea water and sand. While the carnivorous symptom generally occurs in people with a disease that affects the immune system, everyone should properly groom and seal any cuts on the body, and closely monitor skin breaks to prevent infection.
- Look for beach closures or water quality notices. Before going to a water park, pool, beach, or other body of water, email or call the state or county health department to make sure there are no reports of carnivorous bacteria. Some states, such as Florida, have Healthy Beach Programs or Clean Beach Programs that have related websites with results from routine bacterial monitoring.
- When you go to the beach, be sure to wear protective water shoes to avoid scratches and cuts from rocks, seashells, and the ocean floor. Any cuts or scratches made while swimming, wading, or boating should be washed with clean, running water and soap and covered with a clean, dry, waterproof bandage.
- Avoid ingesting seawater or consuming raw shellfish from bodies of water where Vibrio vulnificus may be present. Because infections can also occur from eating raw shellfish harvested from warm marine waters, cook the shellfish thoroughly before consuming them.
- Know the symptoms of an infection. According to FloridaHealth.gov, symptoms can include red, puffy skin, severe pain including abdominal pain, and a fever. Depending on the ater, symptoms may appear in the form of ulcers, blisters or black spots on the skin, pus in the infected area, dizziness and nausea or diarrhea. If Vibrio vulnificus is suspected, seek medical attention immediately and treat it, as antibiotics improve survival. If you educate yourself and take these precautions, you can feel better about how and where to participate in summer water activities.
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider with questions about a medical condition.