Virginia health officials are warning residents about a flesh-eating bacteria which has killed one person and sickened another 22.
Since April, there have been 23 reports of infections caused by Vibrio bacteria, which are found in warm waters along the coast and can enter the body through the smallest cut.
The Virginia Department of Health has yet to release the name of the person who died or where they came into contact with it.
But state epidemiologist Nancy Lemis told WFMY that nine of the infections have occurred in the Hampton Roads area, in the southeastern part of the state, and that she expects the number of cases to rise through the summer months.
Officials from the Virginia Department of Health are warning residents about a flesh-eating bacteria after one person died from it. Since April, 23 have reported infection from it with nine occurring in Hampton Roads (seen in dark green and light green in bottom right corner)
Vibrio bacteria are found in warm waters along the coast and can enter the body through the smallest cut. Virginia fisherman Tim Morgan (pictured) contracted the infection five years ago after he stabbed his index finger with a fishing hook
Morgan spent four days in the hospital and for eight weeks needed an IV as well as antibiotics, but doctors were able to save his finger (pictured)
Vibrio bacteria are found in coastal waters and multiply during the warm months, typically between May and October.
According to the CDC, most people become infected with the bacteria after eating raw or undercooked shellfish.
Symptoms can included nausea, vomiting, fever, and watery diarrhea. The onset is usually 24 hours after the food had been eaten and last no more than three days, the CDC says.
However, some species of Vibrio can cause skin infections if an open wound is exposed to salt water or brackish water, which is a combination of fresh and sea water.
This can lead to necrotizing fasciitis, in which bacteria damages and kills the skin and tissue covering the muscles, and why Vibrio is referred to as a flesh-eating bacteria.
In Virginia, about 50 cases of Vibrio per year are reported on average, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
Currently, a total of 23 – including the resident who died – have been infected. It is currently unclear how they are being treated.
Katherine McCombs, a foodborne disease epidemiologist at the Virginia Department of Health, says that almost all of those who’ve reported falling ill have recovered.
Hampton fisherman Tim Morgan told WFMY that he contracted the infection five years ago after he stabbed his index finger with a fishing hook.
He said the pain became unbearable within hours, so his wife took him to the emergency room.
‘The doctor said at one point: “Hey, good news! We’re gonna save your finger”,’ he told the station.
‘And my wife looked at each other and said: “What the, huh?” I had no idea, and I’d never heard about the disease before,’ he said.
Earlier this month, 60-year-old Angel Perez (pictured), of Millville, New Jersey, contracted a Vibrio infection after he went ‘fishing’ for crabs over Fourth of July weekend
The infection started in his right leg (right) but has spread to all four limbs, including his right arm (left). His daughter, Dilena Perez-Dilan, said he is likely to lose some of his toes and fingers and doctors may have to amputate his limbs if he doesn’t respond to antibiotics soon
Morgan spent four days in the hospital and for eight weeks needed an IV as well as antibiotics.
‘My wife and I were really surprised that it’s a possibility that I could lose my finger, or my arm, or my life,’ he said.
Morgan said his best friend since the first grade died of Vibrio just last month, although it is unclear if this is the same person reported dead by Virginia health officials.
He told WFMY that he hopes that sharing his story will help raise awareness about the life-threatening infection.
Earlier this month, a 60-year-old New Jersey man contracted a Vibrio infection after he went ‘fishing’ for crabs over Fourth of July weekend.
Angel Perez’s right leg began to swell and become discolored the very next day and soon the infection spread to his bloodstream and all four limbs.
His daughter, Dilena Perez-Dilan, told NJ Advance Media that Perez is likely to lose some of his toes and fingers.
If he doesn’t respond to the antibiotics he’s receiving soon, doctors may be forced to amputate all of his limbs.
Additionally, a 71-year-old man from Sarasota, Florida, died on July 10 after eating raw oysters caused by Vibrio vulnificus bacteria.