The Grapevine

Flesh-Eating Bacteria May Become ‘More Frequent’ In Florida Beaches Amid Climate Change

Florida beaches may soon see more flesh-eating bacteria. A new study warns that the disease that has killed several people over the past months may become more active and spread in bay areas around the Gulf of Mexico in the future due to impacts of climate change. 

That may make you think twice before adding Florida beaches to your summer getaway list. Between April and July, cases of flesh-eating bacteria were reported by people who spent time around the Gulf’s water.  

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, shows that the increasing temperatures, which makes sea water warmer, provides perfect homes for necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating disease. Researchers said that climate change could make the infection more frequent and present in more places, The Weather Channel reported Monday.

Vibrio vulnificus caused the most recent cases of flesh-eating disease in the U.S. This bacteria commonly appears in warm, brackish seawater.

V. vulnificus can infect people by entering the body through a cut, scrape, mosquito bites or any opening. It can also bring flesh-eating disease when an individual eats contaminated raw shellfish. 

Between 2017 and 2018, Florida recorded 92 cases of V. vulnificus infections. The Florida Health Department said among these cases, 20 led to death. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects the bacteria to affect 205 people annually across the U.S. The agency estimates that one in every seven cases may cause death. 

Figures may soon increase since flesh-eating disease has been spreading to other areas. V. vulnificus recently affected people in Delaware Bay, where it never existed before.

Warmer sea temperatures due to climate change would allow the bacteria to migrate north in the future, according to Madeleine King, study co-author and an assistant professor at the University of the Sciences. 

Clifford Renk, chair of Florida Gulf Coast University Biological Sciences, said the Gulf of Mexico would become the perfect breeding ground for the flesh-eating bacteria when temperatures reach 85 degrees or above. One researcher said Gulf coast waters already reached 85 degrees this year.

The recent cases of flesh-eating bacteria around the Gulf occurred in Florida beaches, including Destin Beach, Anna Maria Island, Pompano Beach, Santa Rosa Beach and Palm Harbor. One man died after contracting the infection on Magnolia Beach in Texas.

Beach A 12-year-old girl from Indiana contracted a rare flesh-eating bacteria during a vacation in a Florida beach. Pixabay