Authorities warn of deadly bacteria in Alabama waters

Health Authorities in the U.S. state of Alabama have issued a warning reminding local residents of a flesh-eating bacteria found in bodies of water throughout the state.

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) said in a press release that the bacteria, known as Vibrio, was found mostly in brackish and warm salt water such as bay or gulf waters.

The department cautioned that people with open wounds should avoid direct contact with the water, and that people in general should not eat contaminated, raw or under-cooked seafood.

Once infected, the Vibrio bacteria might lead to destructive soft-tissue infections and other illnesses, the department said.

Most soft-tissue infections occur with either injury or with conditions such as poorly controlled diabetes or low immunity. Healthy people may sometimes develop a skin infection after skin injury and exposure to natural bodies of water,’’ said Karen Landers, assistant state health officer.

If you have open wounds, cuts, abrasions and sores, stay out of the water. Persons with low immune systems, cancer, diabetes, liver disease, and other chronic conditions should avoid eating raw or undercooked seafood, especially oysters,’’ Landers added.

According to the ADPH, if a person gets cut while in the water, he or she should immediately wash the wound with soap and fresh water.

If the wounds showed any signs of infection such as redness, pain or swelling or the cut is deep, immediate medical attention should be consulted.

The ADPH said that symptoms of Vibrio illness might include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, chills, fever, shock, skin lesions and wound infections.

In someone with a compromised immune system, the bacteria can infect the bloodstream and may result in death,’’ it said.

Immediate treatment is vital since early medical care and antibiotics increase the possibility of survival, according the department.

Vibriosis infects some 80,000 people in the United States every year, while 100 die from the illness, the ADPH said, citing estimation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.