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Flesh-Eating Bacteria Lurking In Florida Shores

First Posted: Jun 12, 2015 02:46 PM EDT

Florida health officials are warning residents of a flesh-eating bacteria, known as Vibrio vulnificus. The bacterium lurks in seawater shores and according to the Florida Health Department, it can invade the bloodstream and possibly result in life-threatening illnesses, including symptoms such as fever, chills and septic shock.

"People can get infected with Vibrio vulnificus when they eat raw shellfish," Florida Health Department spokeswoman Mara Burger said in a statement, according to CBS News. "Since it is naturally found in warm marine waters, people with open wounds can be exposed to Vibrio vulnificus through direct contact with seawater."

The bacterium is "halophilic," meaning that it requires salt to flourish, growing fastest in warm, watery areas and making Florida a perfect place for it to take off.

For healthy individuals, exposure to the bacterium may result in vomiting, diarrhea and/or abdominal cramping. However, with certain pre-exisiting medical conditions, it may infect the bloodstream, resulting in blistering skin lesions that can even cause death. In fact, half of the reported cases involving the infection of the bloodstream resulted in death.

Thirty-two cases were reported last year in Florida, with 85 percent occurring between May and October, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Health officials recommend not entering the water if you have fresh cuts or scrapes.

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