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Florida Health Issues Warning After 5 Deaths From Flesh-Eating Bacteria In Tampa Bay Area

TAMPA, Fla. - Five people have died in the Tampa Bay area due to Vibrio vulnificus infections, according to Florida Health.
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TAMPA, Fla. – Five people have died in the Tampa Bay area due to Vibrio vulnificus infections, according to Florida Health.

Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium found naturally in warm, brackish seawater that can cause infections in humans, sometimes resulting in serious illness and even death.

According to Florida Health, it’s particularly concerning for people who eat raw or undercooked shellfish, especially oysters, and for those with open wounds who come into contact with warm seawater containing the bacteria.

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According to Florida Health the deaths for the infections occurred in the following counties, Sarasota, Polk, Pasco, and Hillsborough. There have been 26 cases reported in total for 2023 with 4 cases in both Hillsborough County and Escambia County.

Here are some key points about Vibrio vulnificus infections and preventive measures:

Infection Transmission:

  1. Vibrio vulnificus can be contracted through the consumption of raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly oysters.
  2. It can also enter the body through open wounds exposed to warm seawater where the bacteria are present.


  1. Ingestion of Vibrio vulnificus through contaminated shellfish can cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
  2. Contact of open wounds with the bacteria can lead to skin infections, skin ulcers, and in severe cases, bloodstream infections (septicemia).

Risk Factors:

  1. Healthy individuals might experience mild illness, but those with weakened immune systems or chronic liver disease are at higher risk of severe infections.
  2. Bloodstream infections can be fatal in about 50% of cases.
  3. Pre-existing medical conditions make individuals 80 times more likely to develop bloodstream infections.


  1. Do not consume raw or undercooked shellfish, especially oysters.
  2. Thoroughly cook shellfish to destroy the bacteria. Boil or steam them until shells open and continue cooking for the recommended time.
  3. Avoid cross-contamination by preventing contact between cooked and raw seafood and their juices.
  4. Consume cooked shellfish promptly and refrigerate leftovers.
  5. If you have open wounds or broken skin, avoid exposure to warm salt or brackish water and raw shellfish from such waters.
  6. Wear protective clothing, like gloves, when handling raw shellfish.


  1. Suspected Vibrio vulnificus infections should be treated promptly with antibiotics, as early treatment improves survival.
  2. For wound infections, the wound site should be attended to, and in severe cases, amputation might be necessary.

Additional Resources:

  1. The CDC’s website provides detailed information on care and treatment for Vibrio vulnificus infections.
  2. For information on the dangers of consuming raw oysters, you can contact the FDA’s Seafood Hotline at 1-800-332-4010.

It’s important for individuals to be aware of the risks associated with Vibrio vulnificus and to take appropriate precautions, especially if they live in or visit areas with warm, brackish seawater.

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