(WKBN) – Specialists are warning people about a rare, aggressive flesh-eating bacterial infection that was recently contracted by a 12-year-old on a Florida beach.
Kylie Brown visited Destin Beach earlier this month. As she was heading home to Indiana, Brown started feeling pain in her leg.
That pain quickly turned into swelling and a fever, which doctors determined was caused by a flesh-eating bacteria called vibrio vulnificus.
Specialists say the bacteria can cause an infection when an open wound is exposed to salt water.
“You don’t want to go to the beach with anything cut or open. You don’t want to have an open wound, sore, etc., and then go out to the beach, go on the sand, especially going out into the waters itself with an open lesion,” said infectious disease consultant John Venglarcik.
Venglarcik said you can still get infected if you are wearing a bandage.
According to CDC, 80% of infections occur between May and October, when water temperatures are warmer.
Many infections are caused by a strain of vibrio vulnificus. In Florida, 397 people were infected and 108 died from it between 2008 and 2018.
“The whole central part of the United States drains down into there and so all of the pollution, all the sewage, all of that gets in there and then spreads out into the Gulf,” Venglarcik said.
Anyone can contract a vibrio vulnificus infection. Some of the signs to look out for include redness, tenderness, pain and a fever.
Venglarcik said these infections are rare, but serious. They can even lead to limb amputation.
He advised seeking immediate medical attention if you are on the beach and develop these symptoms.
“If there is something developing rapidly, and it’s happening over a period of six to eight hours, like the flesh-eating bacteria, you can watch that spread and if you see that occur, you need to get an emergency room quickly,” he said.
Venglarcik said these infections can occur on other coastal waters besides the Gulf. He also advised not swimming in fresh water if you have an open wound.