What to Know
- Five people in New Jersey have been treated over the past two years for a flesh-eating bacteria that could become more common in the area
- The five people, including one who died, were all treated vibrio vulnificus, more commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria
- Vibrio vulnificus is usually found in warmer waters of the southeastern U.S., leading researchers to believe climate change may play a role
Five people in New Jersey have been treated over the past two years for a flesh-eating bacteria that could become more common in the area as ocean temperatures continue to rise, according to a study.
The five people, including one who died, were all treated at Cooper University Hospital in Camden for vibrio vulnificus, more commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria, Patch reported. All five ranged in ages between 28 and 64 years old, and encountered the nasty bacteria between July 2017 and September 2018 in different areas, according to the report.
Three of the patients got the illness while crabbing in the Delaware Bay, one of whom began suffering from severe pain and swelling in his right leg, his daughter told Patch, ultimately having his limbs amputated. One of the others contracted the bacteria while working in a restaurant, and the final one got it while cleaning and eating crabs while he had an open wound. That 64-year-old man developed lesions on his hands, which became very swollen, and later died, according to the report.
Vibrio vulnificus has historically been found in the warmer waters of the southeastern United States. It is mostly found in brackish water, or water that is a mix of salt water and fresh water. The infections can occur due to breaks in the skin (such as open wounds), or intestinally after eating seafood, according to the Annals of Internal Medicine report.
Only one case was reported at Cooper University Hospital in eight years before 2017 — leading the scientists who conducted the study to believe that warming ocean waters as a result of climate change could be to blame for the recent spread.
The changes in water temperature “have resulted in longer summer seasons and are associated with alterations in the quantity, distribution, and seasonal windows of bacteria in marine ecosystems, including Vibrio,” the report reads, warning that the bacteria could continue to spread in areas it hasn’t previously been found in.
It is important to note that the five people who have contracted the flesh-eating bacteria in New Jersey all had significant medical ailments, including untreated hepatitis B and C, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, alcohol abuse and “morbid obesity.”