July 3, 2014 – The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is advising fishermen to be aware of the potential danger of vibrio vulnificus (V. vulnificus) bacteria that can be found in saltwater.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), V. vulnificus can cause an infection of the skin when open wounds are exposed to warm seawater; these infections may lead to skin breakdown and ulceration. Vv is often called a “flesh eating bacterium”. Persons who are immuno-compromised are at higher risk for invasion of the organism into the bloodstream and potentially fatal complications. V. vulnificus bloodstream infections are fatal about 50 percent of the time.
Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (LDHH) data indicates there are about 10 to 15 cases per year in the state. The majority get the infection from skin contact with sea water (80 percent) or consumption of raw seafood (20 percent).
The CDC and LDHH report that persons who are immuno-compromised, especially those with chronic liver disease, are at risk for Vv when they come in contact with seawater or when they eat raw seafood. A recent study showed that people with these pre-existing medical conditions were 80 times more likely to develop Vv bloodstream infections than were healthy people.
Fishermen in saltwater should carry with them basic disinfectant (chlorine bleach mixed 1 part bleach to 4 parts fresh water or tincture of iodine or antibiotic ointment) and use if skin is punctured while handling fishing tackle, bait or fish. Wade fishermen who injure themselves, breaking the skin and exposing a wound to saltwater, need to take the same precautions.
If ulceration and rapid swelling around the wound area are noted, attention by a physician as soon as possible is advised. For more information, visit http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov , or http://www.cdc.gov/health/diseases.htm.