Danger in the Water: Vibrio vulnificus

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    With summer upon us, beach vacations have taken center stage for many families all around the country. While these beach trips can culminate in loads of fun for people of all ages, there is something sinister lurking in the water. What looks on the surface as a good time to be had might actually surprise you with some very unpleasant consequences up to and including death. When people think about beach and ocean dangers it is typically sharks or jellyfish that come to mind. Though these are present and can ruin your day or even end your life, it is a hidden danger about which we must now be concerned.

    Vibrio vulnificus is a warm weather bacteria that is commonly found in tropical and subtropical ocean and gulf waters. As water warms up during the spring and summer, vibrio vulnificus begins to grow and spread. Though it is generally harmless to individuals in good health, it can viciously attack those with compromised immune systems or other health issues. It enters the body through open wounds or skin lesions and its whirlwind of destruction begins as it consumes flesh. Even those who do not enter the water are at risk, however, as vibrio is often present in raw oysters. If you dine on such a feast, your health can become endangered in the same manner.

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    Photo: Yoga on Siesta Beach

    As survivalists, we may not be too concerned with taking the family on a beach vacation, instead putting our dollars towards a stockpile or other plans. The Gulf of Mexico and other oceans, however, are plentiful food sources that are taken advantage of on a regular basis. People who live on the water fish regularly for their meals. Seafood is harvested commercially and shipped all over the country for consumption. Thus, even if you avoid the water, that does not mean the water's contents may not find their way to you as freezing does not kill vibrio vulnificus.

    When the SHTF, you may rely on the water's bouty to eat. At that time, you may come into contact with vibrio vulnificus. Wade fishing in particular can expose you to water, but don't count on a boat to ensure your safety. Water splashes, after all, and fish are wet. Believe it or not, that tiny bit of contact is sometimes enough for vibrio vulnificus to maim or kill. A cut from a catfish spine or splash of water onto an existing paper cut could be all it takes for you to become infected.

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    Photo: Bayou Woman *Note that this is a conservative image and more graphic images can be found via google search.

    Symptoms of vibrio vulnificus include fever, chills, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and headache that begin within 24 hours of exposure. Most importantly, and noticeably, is the damage that becomes visible to limbs. You may see swelling or discoloration which requires immediate treatment as necrotizing fasciitis sets in quickly and limb amputation could be required to save your life. Should any of these symptoms present after exposure to sea water, seek medical care immediately.

    Despite the dangers associated with vibrio, people still enter the water. Closed beaches and news reports are ignored as people continue to embrace beach season. For most, they will enjoy themselves without consequence. Others, however, will emerge with bodies forever change and may even go on to pass away which is a lot to consider when playing in or living off of the ocean or gulf. It is because of this that you should take steps to avoid sea water in the event you have compromised health.

    Is vibrio vulnificus a threat in your area? Have you had a personal experience with it? Let us know in the comments.

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