Florida health officials report 3 cases of Vibrio vulnificus in coastal counties

Department of Health reports 1 case in Flagler, 2 cases in Volusia

PALM COAST, Fla. - The Florida Departments of Health in Flagler and Volusia counties are advising people to be careful in warm seawater and not eat raw oysters to avoid coming in contact with vibrio vulnificus.

To date in 2013, health officials said 26 cases of the bacteria have been reported in the state of Florida with nine deaths.  In 2011, a total of 35 cases were reported in Florida.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that a 59-year-old Palm Coast man died Monday night after he was exposed to bacteria while wading in the Halifax River casting nets for crabs two days earlier.

Two people Volusia County residents also became infected -- at least one after eating raw oysters.

Vibrio vulnificus normally lives in warm seawater and is in the same family as cholera. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. People who have compromised immune systems caused by illnesses such as liver disease or HIV/AIDS are more likely to die from the bacteria.

"It's in seafood, it's in oysters," said Dr. Vandana Bhide of Mayo Clinic. "Recently an outbreak in California, but remember this is a bacteria that's always present in the seawater. It's not contamination of seawater. It always lives there."

Health officials are advising residents to avoid eating raw shellfish and exposing open wounds to seawater.

"Of course people think they can tell with suspicious odor or taste, but it actually tastes like regular seafood," said Bhide. "But it is important not to eat raw seafood or undercooked seafood."

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