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CDC warns of spread of deadly carnivorous bacteria along US coasts


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a Health Alert Network (HAN) health advisory to raise awareness of the recent increase in fatal Vibrio vulnificus (V. vulnificus) infections in the United States. These infections, whether from wounds or food-borne infections, are becoming more prevalent, especially in coastal regions where sea surface temperatures are warming.

At least 12 people have died from the bacteria this year, according to a report by Axios.

The Vibrio bacterium, responsible for approximately 80,000 illnesses a year in the United States, poses a significant health risk, with V. vulnificus being a particularly dangerous strain. Recent reports indicate that this bacterium causes serious infections, with a death rate of about one in five people affected.


The most common symptoms of a bacterial infection include diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills. Severe cases are characterized by necrotizing skin and soft tissue infections, often requiring intensive care or surgery.


Vibrio bacteria are commonly found in coastal waters, including salt and brackish waters. Infections usually occur when eating raw or undercooked shellfish, especially oysters. In addition, direct contact between open wounds and Vibrio-contaminated water could put individuals at risk.

People with underlying health conditions, including liver disease, diabetes, and a weakened immune system, are at higher risk for V. vulnificus infection.


Rising coastal water temperatures have created a favorable environment for bacteria to grow, especially during the summer months. The Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast, in particular, have seen a significant increase in cases. Several East Coast states, such as Connecticut, New York, and North Carolina, have also reported serious and fatal V. vulnificus infections, many of which were linked to exposure to coastal waters or consumption of seafood. sea.


To address this growing concern, healthcare providers are advised to consider V. vulnificus as a potential cause of infection in patients with wounds exposed to coastal waters, especially those at higher risk. The CDC also stated that:
  • Prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial.
  • Laboratories should report suspected cases to public health authorities for further investigation.
  • Treatment

    For people affected by V. vulnificus infections, early treatment is essential. The CDC recommends blood cultures in addition to cultures of wounds and bleeding bullae if the patient has fever, bleeding bullae, or signs of sepsis. Bullae are large blisters on the skin filled with clear fluid.

    To improve survivability, the CDC recommends early antibiotic therapy and surgery. Recommended antibiotics include doxycycline and a third-generation cephalosporin. Severe cases may require aggressive debridement, that is, treatment of the skin wound, fasciotomy, or amputation of the infected limb.

    Public health officials have been encouraged to educate residents and tourists in coastal communities about the dangers of V. vulnificus infections and protective measures. Education, signage and awareness campaigns are key to mitigating this emerging public health threat.