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The Florida Department of Health reported Friday a large increase in Vibrio vulnificus cases in 2022 due to an abnormal increase due to the impacts of Hurricane Ian in Lee and Collier counties.

The state has reported 65 cases year to date, which includes 29 cases from Lee County and three from Collier County.

Image/David Benbennick

The death toll to date is now 11, including four in Lee County.

Florida: Lee County health officials warn of Vibrio vulnificus post-Hurricane Ian

Earlier this month, the Florida Department of Health in Lee County (DOH-Lee) urged the public to take precautions against infection and illness caused by Vibrio vulnificus.

The state saw 34 total V. vulnificus cases and 10 deaths in 2021.

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Vibrio vulnificus can cause disease in those who eat contaminated seafood or have an open wound that is exposed to warm seawater containing the bacteria. Ingestion of Vibrio vulnificus can cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Vibrio vulnificus can also cause an infection of the skin when open wounds are exposed to warm seawater; these infections may lead to skin breakdown and ulcers.

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.

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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.