Flesh-eating bacteria just reached the coast to the Delaware Bay due to increasingly warm water temperatures.
Commonly found in warm waters of the Gulf Coast, Vibrio vulnificus lives in temperatures above 55F, said New Jersey researchers in a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
However, the bacteria are slowly heading north and have infected five people from 2017 to 2018. The infected people either went crabbing near the bay between New Jersey and Delaware or ate seafood from the Delaware Bay.
According to the study, patients who contracted the bacteria had existing medical conditions. Centers for Disease Control says people with compromised immune system are most at risk.
A 64-year-old man passed away after contracting the infection after cleaning crabs with his hands. Other injuries include a man who became infected after he cut his leg on a crab trap and another man who had all four limbs amputated after eating crabs.
The researchers wrote in the report: “We believe that clinicians should be aware of the possibility that V. vulnificus infections are occurring more frequently outside traditional geographic areas.”
According to CNN, there was only one case of infection in the area between 2008 and 2016.
People can contract the infection by eating undercooked or raw shellfish, especially oysters, the CDC warns. Swimmers with open wounds should also avoid brackish or salt water to avoid infections.
The agency estimated that 1 in 7 people who get the infection die. There are more than 200 infections in the United States every year.
In mild cases, the infection usually disappears in three days. Serious cases may require limb amputation.
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