Five dead after flesh-eating bacteria sweeps through popular holiday hotspot

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    A dream holiday destination has turned into a nightmare after five people died due to a flesh-eating bacteria found in the area.

    Health officials confirmed that the vibrio vulnificus bacterium has been detected on the beaches of the Tampa Bay area of Florida, US.

    It has been named as the cause of death in five cases this year, prompting a stark warning to all beachgoers.

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    Experts explained the bacterium needs salt to survive so it can be found in warm, brackish seawater, and will grow quicker in summer months.

    Infections are rare according to health officials but those with open wounds, cuts, or scrapes will be more susceptible and should avoid the water.

    It comes after reports of 26 cases of vibrio vulnificus in Florida this year, additionally, five people have died from the bacterial infection according to officials.

    Last year the area saw 74 cases and 17 deaths – which experts described as “abnormally high”.

    The high figures were linked to a sewage spill in the ocean during Hurrican Ian.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some Vibrio vulnificus infections lead to necrotising fasciitis, a severe infection in which the flesh around an open wound dies. Necrotizing fasciitis can be caused by more than one type of bacteria.

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    Vibrio vulnificus can cause an infection of the skin which may lead to skin breakdown and ulcers.

    The bacterium can invade the bloodstream, causing a severe life-threatening illness with symptoms including fever, chills, decreased blood pressure and blistering skin lesions.

    While anyone may be susceptible to the infection, those with weakened immune systems may develop more severe conditions.

    Infection can cause severe illness or death in some cases, with health officials claiming one in five people die within days of becoming infected.

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    People experiencing symptoms should seek urgent medical attention – but it cannot be transferred from person to person.

    Governor Kathy Hochul described the flesh-eating bacteria as "extraordinarily dangerous" and called upon her constituents to take precautions against the bacteria.

    "While rare, the vibrio bacterium has unfortunately made it to this region and can be extraordinarily dangerous," Hochul said in a press release.

    "As we investigate further, it is critical that all New Yorkers stay vigilant and take responsible precautions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, including protecting open wounds from seawater and for those with compromised immune systems, avoiding raw or undercooked shellfish which may carry the bacteria."

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