Florida saltwater bacteria numbers grow, alarming swimmers

TAMPA, FL (WFLA) – The number of people contracting a deadly saltwater bacteria is rising.

So far this year, Florida has seen 19 cases and 10 deaths.

The Florida Department of Health releases case numbers once a week and includes where the infected person is from, but not where they contracted the bacteria, known as vibrio vulnificus.

In severe cases, the vibrio bacteria can break down the skin, requiring surgery, amputation or even death.

The bacteria is found in raw shellfish and warm saltwater, which worries some because Florida’s saltwater is getting warmer.

Our Tampa sister station WFLA has tried for months to obtain an on-camera interview with health officials, but they refuse.

In June, the state reported two deaths and eight cases.

Officials posted a video with advice and said healthy people should be fine.

Those with the open wounds or weakened immune systems are advised to avoid raw shellfish and to stay out of saltwater.

“The way to protect yourself from skin infections from vibrio is by performing good wound care and you do that by covering the wounds with dry clean bandages until they’re healed,” Dr. Carina Blackmore, Deputy State Epidemiologist, said in the video.

But now that there are 19 cases and 10 deaths, the department still directs WFLA to the same video and won’t provide any specifics on the cases.

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