Sunshine State health officials issued words of wisdom on Monday to ocean-goers who have weak immune systems or open sores: Swim at your own risk.
Florida’s ocean waters contain the flesh-eating vibrio vulnificus bacteria which thrive in warm, salty water, and can prove very dangerous if contracted, according to the Broward/Palm Beach New Times.
Causing approximately 80,000 illnesses a year and 100 deaths, the bacteria can enter a beach-goer’s system both through eating and swimming.
“A person can contract vibrio by eating tainted raw shellfish and oysters,” Health Department Press Secretary Pamela Crane told New Times, and by ocean swimming with an open wound.
Symptoms range from vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain to skin lesions, fever, chills and low blood pressure if the bacterium enters the bloodstream.
The Florida Department of Health reports the fatality rate at 50 percent for cases of vibrio entering the bloodstream, and the chances of getting sick 80 percent higher for people who have weak immune systems.
Since the bacteria occurs naturally in Florida’s water, most swimmers never have a problem. However, if you do have an open wound or weak bodily defenses, Crane urges a thorough washing afterwards.
For shellfish lovers, best to make sure the crustaceans are cooked thoroughly and the oysters boiled or fried vigorously. Don’t let a little bacterium cast a pall on your sunshine.
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