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Flesh-eating bacteria now blamed for deaths in 2 states

New York health officials are investigating a fatality caused by Vibrio vulnificus bacteria after two deaths were reported in Connecticut.
Flesh-eating bacteria now blamed for deaths in 2 states
Posted at 4:28 AM, Aug 17, 2023

Someone died after an infection caused by Vibrio vulnificus, a rare flesh-eating bacteria, New York health officials confirmed on Wednesday. 

The New York State Department of Health was trying to determine whether the bacteria was encountered in New York waters or elsewhere. The death comes after Connecticut health officials reported two deaths related to the bacteria in recent days. 

The bacterial infection comes from eating raw or undercooked seafood, or contact with saltwater or brackish water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“While rare, the Vibrio bacteria has unfortunately made it to this region and can be extraordinarily dangerous,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “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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Since July 1, the Connecticut Department of Public Health has confirmed three cases of vibriosis. 

Even if a person doesn't consume the seafood, they can still contract the infection from contact with its drippings or juices. This happens when bacteria enters a wound and infects the person.

In the case of the infected people in Connecticut, one reported consuming raw oysters from an out-of-state establishment, and the other two said they were exposed to saltwater or brackish water in Long Island Sound. Both patients had pre-existing wounds or wounds created by these activities, which could have led to infection. The three patients are between 60 and 80 years old. 

Some Vibrio infections lead to necrotizing fasciitis, in which the flesh around the open wound dies. 

"Many people with Vibrio vulnificus infection require intensive care or limb amputations, and about 1 in 5 people with this infection die, sometimes within a day or two of becoming ill," the CDC said. 

 The CDC estimates vibriosis causes about 80,000 illnesses in the U.S. yearly, resulting in 100 deaths. 

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