MOBILE COUNTY, Ala. – The Mobile County Health Department is investigating its first case this year of a potentially flesh-eating bacteria infecting a person.
According to the health department, a person was exposed to Vibrio vulnificus in the Mobile River.
Barbara Gibbs, a registered nurse who oversees Mobile County Health Department’s Infectious Disease & Outbreaks division, said “necrotizing fasciitis was not involved in this case.” Necrotizing fasciitis is more commonly referred to as “flesh-eating.”
A Mobile County Health Department spokesperson told us of the seven reported cases in Mobile County last year, only one involved necrotizing fasciitis.
The bacteria lives in coastal waters and occurs more often between May and October, when the water temperatures are warmer, health department officials said. The bacteria can get into the body through a break in the skin or through eating contaminated seafood, such as raw or undercooked oysters.
Vibriosis symptoms can include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, skin lesions and wound infections, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. It can also be fatal and should be treated immediately. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 80,000 people contract Vibriosis each year and 100 die from the infection.
People with low immune systems, cancer, diabetes and other chronic conditions should avoid eating raw or undercooked seafood, health officials said. To avoid Vibrio through the skin, officials advise staying out of the water if you have open wounds, cuts, scratches or sores.
The state has counted eight verified Vibriosis cases as of July 18.