Monday, August 4, 2014

What's in the water on Siesta Key?

For about a week now we have been hearing about a “flesh-eating bacteria” in the coastal and inland waters of Southwest Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, but what’s really in the water and how careful do I really need to be?

Vibrio vulnificus is a bacteria that occurs naturally in coastal waters. The bacteria, which is more abundant in the summer months (you know, the months without an “R” in the name), is not new, it is not more abundant than in years past, and it is not “flesh-eating”.

When exposed to the bacteria, individuals with underlying health conditions can experience symptoms including nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, and chills after eating raw or undercooked seafood, especially oysters. Swallowing water while swimming is not a danger, the gastrointestinal form of the infection can only be contracted by eating raw or undercooked fish. These gastrointestinal symptoms can be severe, or even fatal, but only for individuals with a compromised immune system.

Individuals with an open wound that has been exposed to seawater or brackish water can develop an infection at the site of the wound. Jay Grimes, a professor at the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory who has studied Vibrio bacteria since 1980 advises those who like to fish in Gulf waters to prevent the risk of Vibrio skin infections by keeping hydrogen peroxide and Betadine in their tackle boxes. “Hydrogen peroxide is not an antiseptic, but when you pour it on a wound, the bubbling has a cleansing effect. Then if you put Betadine on it, chances are good you won't get an infection.” he said.

“Floridians and visitors without flesh wounds or underlying medical conditions should not be alarmed”, said Michael Drennon, epidemiologist for Sarasota County. Healthy individuals should continue to enjoy the beach and other salt water activities.

It is important to note that that shellfish from grocery stores and restaurants are approved and licensed for distribution. If you choose to harvest your own shellfish, it should be from an approved harvesting site. Sarasota County does not have shellfish harvesting sites and harvesting sites in other parts of the state are currently closed. Cooking shellfish thoroughly eliminates harmful bacteria and viruses in the meat.

Please visit the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce
Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce
5114 Ocean Boulevard
Siesta Key, FL 34242
(941) 349-3800

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