Do not enter bodies of water if you have cuts or abrasions; if injured, clean wound at once to reduce risk of infection
Many harmful micro-organisms are found in lakes, rivers, along the coast, and in other bodies of water. Some bacteria may lead to destructive soft-tissue infections and other illnesses, the Virginia Department of Public Health (VDH) cautions.
Most soft-tissue infections occur with either injury or with conditions of low immunity. However, sometimes otherwise healthy people can develop a skin infection after skin injury and being exposed to natural bodies of water. Some bacteria can cause more severe infections than others.
In brackish and warm sea water, Vibrio bacteria occur naturally. These bacteria can cause disease in people who eat contaminated seafood and in those with open wounds that are exposed to seawater. While there are numerous infections every year, a small number of people develop serious or sometimes fatal infections.
If a person has 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.
Vibrio bacteria can enter the body through a break in the skin or by consuming contaminated seafood. If a person gets a cut while in the water, immediately wash the wound with soap and fresh water. If the wound shows any signs of infection (redness, pain or swelling) or if the cut is deep, get medical attention immediately.
Vibrio illness symptoms may 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. With Vibrio skin infections, surgery may be necessary. For all cases of Vibrio, it is important to begin treatment immediately because early medical care and antibiotics improve survival.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year in the United States 80,000 people become sick with vibriosis, and 100 people die from their infection. As of June 1, there have been four cases of vibriosis in Virginia compared to five the same time last year.
Learn more about vibrio illness at www.cdc.gov/vibrio and www.vdh.virginia.gov/Epidemiology/factsheets/pdf/Vibrio.pdf.