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Louisiana - Vibrio vulnificus has infected eight people this summer

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  • Louisiana - Vibrio vulnificus has infected eight people this summer

    Health Department Issues Warning to Travelers and People Enjoying the Coast

    Wednesday, August 13, 2014 |

    BATON ROUGE, La. -

    There's still plenty of time this summer to enjoy the coast or the beach, whether it's along the Gulf Coast or the Caribbean. Before heading out, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) wants to warn travelers, beachgoers and fishermen about two diseases, Vibrio vulnificus and the chikungunya virus.

    Vibrio vulnificus

    Louisiana's warm gulf waters are inviting, but may pose a risk for individuals with chronic liver disease or weakened immune systems. Vibrio vulnificus, one of the flesh-eating bacteria, has infected eight people in Louisiana this summer. The infections occur by exposing open wounds or cuts to warm seawater or brackish (briny) water, or by eating raw shellfish. This bacteria is commonly found in seawater and shellfish throughout the world, and is more abundant during the summer months. Louisiana typically reports five to 15 cases each year. The bacteria can invade the bloodstream, causing a severe and life-threatening illness with symptoms like fever, chills, decreased blood pressure (septic shock) and blistering skin lesions. Other symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain or fever.

    "Don't wait, seek medical care immediately, rather than later, if you have symptoms after exposure to brackish or saltwater," said State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry. "The key to recovery is getting treatment quickly."

    The DHH offers the following tips for reducing your risk.
    • Keep brackish and salt water away from open wounds.
    • There may be a risk associated with consuming raw shellfish. If you suffer from chronic illness of the liver, kidney failure or have other immune disorders, or if you're going through or have been through chemotherapy, have used steroids for a long time or are using antacids, you should eat these products fully cooked.
    • Avoid cross contaminating ready-to-eat foods with raw shellfish and its juices.
    • Avoid skin punctures or seafood dripping on skin when handling raw shellfish, including oyster shells, shrimp and crabs.
    "Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."
    -Nelson Mandela