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Rare ‘Flesh-Eating’ Bacterium Spreads North as Oceans Warm

Rare ‘Flesh-Eating’ Bacterium Spreads North as Oceans Warm

Debbie King barely gave it a second thought when she scraped her right shin climbing onto her friend’s pontoon for a day of boating in the Gulf of Mexico on Aug. 13.

Her friend dressed it immediately but her shin still was red and swollen when King woke up the next morning. She assumed it was sunburn.

The red area and blisters had grown three days later. After one glance, her doctor sent King, 72 years old, to an emergency room.

After recognizing that King’s infection was serious, doctors at HCA Florida citrus hospital in Inverness (Florida) rushed him into surgery. Vibrio vulnificusA potentially deadly bacterium which kills healthy tissue surrounding a wound. While King lay on the operating table, the surgeon told her husband she would likely die if they didn’t amputate.

Four days after the scrape King She spent four days in intensive treatment after losing her leg.

“The flesh was gone; it was just bone,” she said of her leg.

There are many different types of V. vulnificus are rare. Every year, between 150 and 200 cases are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 20% of these cases result in death. The majority of cases are found in the states that border the Gulf of Mexico. However, in 2019 7% of the cases occurred on the Pacific Coast. Florida has an average of 37 cases per year.

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