Fort Pierce scientists plan to find the worst hotspots for a potentially deadly bacteria that lurks naturally throughout the Indian River Lagoon and that sickened 41 people in Florida last year, including two Brevard County men.
The bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, causes an estimated 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths annually in the United States.
It killed 11 people in Florida last year.
Scientists at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute hope their study will help warn the public about the places where and the times when the bacteria is most dangerous.
It’s likely Vibrio has always been in the lagoon, but Harbor Branch is the first to go looking for the bacteria in this region, says Peter McCarthy, a research professor in Harbor Branch’s marine biomedical and biotechnology program.
“This area of the coast, nobody has really studied it,” McCarthy said.
They’ll search for the bacteria at seven sites within about 30 to 50 miles of Harbor Branch in Fort Pierce.
The research is a part of a larger study looking at the impacts of bacteria on human and ecological health.
The recently-launched study is also the subject of FAU graduate student Gabby Barbarite’s Ph.D. dissertation and is being conducted under McCarthy’s guidance.
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“The lagoon is not only ecologically important, but it is also a great area for aquatic activities like boating and fishing,” Barbarite said in a release. “This study will help us understand the distribution of these pathogens and the sources that they are associated with, in order to make everyone’s time spent on the water as enjoyable and safe as possible.”
Although Vibrio bacteria occur naturally in warm coastal waters, freshwater discharge such as stormwater runoff can increase their distribution and abundance.
The study will determine Vibrio’s local presence and establish a monitoring baseline to reference after heavy rains.
The study is examining sediment, oysters, catfish and other finfish from recreational areas. Early findings confirm Vibrio’s presence throughout the lagoon. Its abundance
differs by location mainly due to salt content and other water quality parameters.
Researchers plan to sample throughout the year to determine seasonal differences.
Experts say it is important to be aware of the risks but that the bacteria’s presence in the lagoon is not a cause for alarm. Severe infections are mostly limited to individuals with compromised immunity. People can reduce risk of infection by properly disinfecting, avoiding exposure of wounds
and by using caution when handling and consuming seafood.
Last year, two Brevard County men contracted vibrio from the lagoon, prompting health warnings. Officials urged residents to avoid exposure of open wounds or broken skin to warm, salty outdoor waters, and to abstain from raw shellfish harvested in the lagoon. Both men were infected after fishing in the lagoon. Each recovered.
They were among 41 reported cases of infections from the deadly bacteria last year in Florida, which killed 11 people, including a 59-year old man infected while crabbing in the Halifax River near Ormond Beach.
Now is the most dangerous time of year for the bacteria. Vibrio infections tend to occur between May and October, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Every year Brevard has a few cases due to water exposure.
Boating and other sporting activities in the lagoon are generally safe, and infections are very rare. But health officials recommend people avoid eating raw
seafood or exposing themselves to lagoon water if they have an open wound, especially if they have liver or immune system problems.
Vibrio infections in people with those types of conditions have a 50 percent fatality rate.
When it infects the skin via open wounds, Vibrio vulnificus can cause skin breakdown and ulcers.
Ingestion of the bacteria can trigger vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Eating a single contaminated oyster can kill.
Or even an ant bite or any tiny wound can allow an entry point for the bacteria.
Vibrio dies at salt levels typically seen in the ocean but thrives at lower to moderate salt concentrations, such as those found in the lagoon.
Florida to Beachgoers: HIGH LEVELS of Flesh-Eating Bacteria Everywhere!!!
(Newser) – Crash-landing planes aren’t the only hazard on Florida beaches: The state has warned that high levels of flesh-eating Vibrio bacteria have been detected in its waters, Gawker reports. The naturally-occurring bacteria, which thrives in warm, moderately salty water, causes around 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths in the US yearly and killed at least 11 people in Florida last year, according to Florida Today. Health officials say the bacteria is especially dangerous to people with weak immune systems and is fatal around 50% of the time when it gets into people’s bloodstreams, the Broward-Palm Beach New Times reports.
WARNING EXTREMELY GRAPHIC
“A person can contract the virus by eating tainted raw shellfish and oysters,” a Florida health official says. “And people who swim in seawater who have open wounds are also vulnerable to the bacteria.” Symptoms of infection include fever, chills, and skin lesions, the New Times notes, explaining that while many people have probably already swum in bacteria-infested waters and been OK, people with weak immune systems should probably steer clear of Florida waters for now. Researchers say that illnesses caused by Vibrio bacteria are set to rise as the oceans get warmer. (In Oregon recently, a woman contracted another type of flesh-eating bacteria after falling off her bike.)
If Ebola Hits U.S., Even Healthy Americans Will be Quarantined
“Well persons” who “do not show symptoms” would be forcibly detained
With concerns growing over the deadly Ebola virus, which has killed 670 people in West Africa, preparations are already underway in the United States, where even healthy Americans will be subjected to forced quarantine in the event of an Ebola pandemic.
Western governments are now issuing alerts to doctors to be on the lookout for symptoms of the disease after an infected Liberian man was found to have traveled through a major transport hub in Nigeria. The World Health Organization has called the outbreak the worst on record, while Doctors Without Borders says the situation is “out of control.”
Back in April, the Department of Defense announced that it had deployed biological diagnostic systems to National Guard support teams across the U.S. in readiness for any potential Ebola outbreak.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has procedures in place to deal with such an outbreak backed by force of law.
The official CDC website details ‘Specific Laws and Regulations Governing the Control of Communicable Diseases’, under which even healthy citizens who show no symptoms of Ebola whatsoever would be forcibly quarantined at the behest of medical authorities.
“Quarantine is used to separate and restrict the movement of well persons who may have been exposed to a communicable disease to see if they become ill. These people may have been exposed to a disease and do not know it, or they may have the disease but do not show symptoms,” states the CDC (emphasis mine).
Such stringent regulations have led to fears that an outbreak of a dangerous communicable disease in the United States would lead to massive abuse of power by the federal government and the imposition of martial law.
The Common Sense Show’s Dave Hodges points out that the seriousness of the Ebola threat makes a mockery of the Obama administration’s current immigration policy.
“Even if there was not a present immigration crisis at the border, there is a significant outbreak of Ebola in a seven country region of West Africa,” writes Hodges. “With modern air travel, this government should be enacting protocols to limit the chances for Ebola from coming into the United States. Instead, President Obama is having ICE and DHS load up the busses and planes, at taxpayers expense to ship them throughout the United States without going through a minimum of a three week health screening period (i.e. Ebola’s incubation period).”
World Net Daily’s Drew Zahn highlights the fact that that some of the individuals detained while trying to cross the U.S. border from Mexico were Africans.
“All it would take is one sick passenger or an illegal alien crossing our border to start a local outbreak in the United States,” warns the One Citizen Speaking blog, which calls on Obama to “impose travel restrictions on flights from and to the stricken area – unless they were humanitarian flights and closely monitored.”