Officials in Sarasota County have issued a health advisory after a fatal case this month involving Vibrio vulnificus, a “flesh-eating” bacterium that thrives in warm seawater.
The advisory warns against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters. Officials said people with chronic liver diseases are most vulnerable.
The Florida Department of Health said the person who died was middle-aged with chronic health issues, and acquired the illness via saltwater through an open wound.
A second person in the county was sickened by the bacteria, the department said. That person was also middle-aged with a medical condition.
Statewide, 11 cases have been reported this year, including one in Hillsborough County. Two Floridians have died from it this year, the health department said.
In 2013, 41 cases were reported with 11 deaths.
According to the health department, Vibrio vulnificus thrives in coastal Florida waters, especially in the summer.
Symptoms include stomach illness, fever or shock after eating raw seafood — especially oysters — or a wound infection after exposure to seawater. The infections may lead to “flesh-eating” skin breakdown and ulcers.
Vibrio vulnificus is in the same family of bacterium that causes cholera.
There is no evidence of person-to-person transmission, the department said.