Florida health officials have reported two additional deaths in the past week due to bacterial infection caused by the naturally occurring waterborne bacterium, Vibrio vulnificus.

Florida map/National Atlas of the United States
Florida map/National Atlas of the United States

The latest fatalities have been reported from Pinellas County and Escambia County. This brings the total deaths in Florida to 10, as of July 31. The total cases stands at 19.

In 2014, 32 V. vulnificus cases were reported, including 7 deaths.

V. vulnificus can cause disease in those who eat contaminated seafood or have an open wound that is exposed to seawater. Among healthy people, ingestion of V. vulnificus can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

In immunocompromised persons, particularly those with chronic liver disease, V. vulnificus can infect the bloodstream, causing a severe and life-threatening illness characterized by fever and chills, decreased blood pressure (septic shock), and blistering skin lesions. V. vulnificus bloodstream infections are fatal about 50% of the time.

V. vulnificus can cause an infection of the skin when open wounds are exposed to warm seawater; these infections may lead to skin breakdown and ulceration. Persons who are immunocompromised are at higher risk for invasion of the organism into the bloodstream and potentially fatal complications.

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