Like many frequent South Florida beachgoers, local fisherman Joaquin Caldentey and Miami Beach resident Bryan Marquez are scared to get in the water. What’s stopping them? Concerns over the increasing number of people who have contracted what the media calls “flesh-eating bacteria.”
Scientifically known as Vibrio vulnificus, the bacteria made headlines in summer 2019, but it turns out the terrifying nickname has created several misconceptions and paranoia. For starters, the bacteria’s presence does not correlate with the quality of the water. Instead, it relies on warmer temperatures and salty waters.
It can be contracted by entering the water with an open wound or cut, and is potentially deadly. However, that doesn’t mean people have to give up beach activities. The infection is preventable.
Dr. Andria Rusk, an FIU research assistant professor on infectious diseases, stressed the importance of taking preventative measures to avoid infection.
“Would I not go to the beach? No, I would go to the beach. I might spend less time in the water, I might go when it is a bit cooler out. I’m going to wear water shoes. And, I’m not going in with any cuts on my leg, I can guarantee you that,” said Rusk. “The trigger that I would like to start seeing in people is rather than living with fevers and signs of infection, go get it checked out.”
Don’t forget these preventative measures:
– Cover up cuts and wounds
– Wear water shoes
– Check the Department of Health’s beach monitoring data at FLORIDAHEALTH.GOV
Always remember, if you see something unusual on your skin, go see a doctor immediately.