Connecticut Residents Warned of Illness Caused by Bacteria Found in LI Sound

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The Connecticut Dept. of Public Health is warning residents on the state's shoreline about an illness caused by bacteria in salt or brackish water.

Health officials said Saturday there has been an unusually high number of infections caused by bacteria in the salt or brackish water (a mix of salt and fresh water) along Long Island Sound.

According to health officials, since July, five cases of Vibrio vulnificus infections have been reported to DPH.

Experts said one patient is from Fairfield county, one patient is from Middlesex county and the other three are from New Haven county. All five are between the ages of 49 and 85 years old. Four of the patients are men and one is a woman.

Two of the patients had an infection of the bloodstream and three had serious wound infections, authorities said. All five patients were hospitalized and no deaths have been reported, they added.

Investigators said all five patients reported exposure to salt or brackish water during activities such as swimming, crabbing and boating.

Health officials said all five patients also had pre-existing wounds or sustained new wounds during these activities that led to the infections.

"The identification of these five cases over two months is very concerning. This suggests the Vibrio bacteria may be present in salt or brackish water in or near Long Island Sound, and people should take precautions," said State Epidemiologist for DPH Dr. Matthew Cartter.

The Vibrio vulnificus infection is described by health experts as extremely rare. Experts said in the past 10 years, between 2010 and 2019, only seven cases were reported in Connecticut.

The Vibrio vulnificus can "cause wound infections when open wounds are exposed to warm salt or brackish water (mix of salt and fresh water.) The bacteria, once inside the body, can infect the bloodstream causing septicemia. People with a V. vulnificus infection can get seriously ill and need intensive care or limb amputation," Dept. of Public Health experts said.

About one in five people with this type of infection die and authorities said it can sometimes be within a day or two of becoming ill. Those at the greatest risk for illness are those with weakened immune systems and the elderly, they added.

We spoke with three kayakers at Light House Point Park who said they weren't aware of the advisory.

"We might not have gone today had I known that. Not that I have any open wounds but that's kind of scary," Tim English, of New Haven said.

"I would've liked to have known that before jumping in the water," Liz English, of New Haven said.

"It's definitely shocking, especially because I'm hearing from you after coming out of the water. It would be nice if maybe they warned people at the beach," Hamden resident Matt Sherwood said.

Kara Straun, of New Haven, was at the beach with her two young children when she was made aware of Vibrio vulnificus' impact on the Connecticut shoreline.

"My thoughts are to pack up and go home right now. I mean I have two small kids. They have scrapes and cuts all the time," Straun said.

Some tips from DPH officials include:

  • Staying out of saltwater or brackish water if you have a wound, including from recent surgery, a piercing or a tattoo. This includes wading at the beach, officials added.
  • Cover your wound with a waterproof bandage if it could come into contact with saltwater, brackish water or raw or undercooked seafood and its juices. (This can happen during everyday activities such as swimming, fishing or walking on the beach, officials said.)
  • Wash wounds and cuts thoroughly with soap and water after they have contact with saltwater, brackish water, raw seafood or its juices.

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