Record Breaking Heat Waves Gave Rise To Severe “Flesh-Eating” Infections Last Summer

StockPhotoPro - - illustrative purposes only, not the actual person

Last summer, record-breaking heat waves gave rise to severe “flesh-eating” infections that occurred in three states on the East Coast.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the infections were caused by Vibrio vulnificus, a deadly bacterial species that lives in coastal waters.

The pathogen can enter open wounds through contact with salt water, brackish water (a mix of fresh and salt water), or raw seafood, leading to a “flesh eating” infection called necrotizing fasciitis. It can cause the tissue surrounding the wound to die rapidly.

Additionally, infections can take place if raw or undercooked seafood is ingested. The same bacteria can bring about a gastrointestinal infection. Common symptoms include fever, diarrhea, and vomiting. It can also progress into septic shock, which is life-threatening.

V. vulnificus thrives in warmer waters. Between June and August 2023, the U.S. experienced widespread heat waves that increased sea surface temperatures to numbers that were above average.

In July and August, North Carolina, Connecticut, and New York reported a total of 11 cases of V. vulnificus infections. Seven were in North Carolina, two were in Connecticut, and two were from New York.

The individuals who were affected ranged from 37 to 84 years old. All but one had underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, a history of alcoholism, and hematologic disease.

Overall, five patients died. Three were lost after experiencing septic shock, and one had septic shock but survived.

Six of the infected individuals were likely exposed to V. vulnificus through marine or estuarine waters along the Atlantic coast from July 7 to August 22, 2023.

StockPhotoPro – – illustrative purposes only, not the actual person

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