Florida health officials reported on the sixth death due to infection with the bacterium, Vibrio vulnificus, in Lake County. This follows fatalities reported in Broward, Citrus, Palm Beach, Santa Rosa and Sarasota counties earlier this year. It is not reported how the victim contracted the infection.

Vibrio vulnificus/CDC
Vibrio vulnificus/CDC

In addition, the case count in 2016 as of Sep. 23 is 29. Last year, Florida saw 45 cases and 14 deaths, the most since 2003.

People can get infected with Vibrio vulnificus when they eat raw shellfish, particularly oysters. The bacterium is frequently isolated from oysters and other shellfish in warm coastal waters during the summer months. Since it is naturally found in warm marine waters, people with open wounds can be exposed to Vibrio vulnificus through direct contact with seawater.

Healthy individuals typically develop a mild disease; however, Vibrio vulnificus infections can be a serious concern for people who have weakened immune systems, particularly those with chronic liver disease. The bacterium can invade the bloodstream, causing a severe and life-threatening illness with symptoms like fever, chills, decreased blood pressure (septic shock) and blistering skin lesions.

Vibrio vulnificus bloodstream infections are fatal about 50 percent of the time.A recent study showed that people with these pre-existing medical conditions were 80 times more likely to develop Vibrio vulnificus bloodstream infections than healthy people. Wound infections may also be serious in people with weakened immune systems. The wound may heal poorly and require surgery. Sometimes amputation may even be needed for recovery.