JUN 28, 2015 2:49 PM PDT

Swimmer Dies From Bacterial Infection After Swimming in The Gulf of Mexico

WRITTEN BY: Sarah Hertrich

On June 14th a 26-year-old man went swimming in the Gulf of Mexico near Tampa, Florida, where he contracted a serious infection caused by the bacterium Vibrio vulnificus. According to the victim's mother, the man also had an underlying autoimmune disorder and died due to complications from the infection on June 16th. This is the 4th death this year related to this bacterial species. The cause of death was not determined until June 23rd and swimmers are disappointed that the public health hazard was not released to the public sooner.

According to the CDC, Vibrio vulnificus is a salt-loving bacterium that can typically be found in warm sea water. It can cause disease in those who eat contaminated seafood or those who have an open wound that is exposed while swimming in seawater. Infections are caused when skin wounds are exposed to warm seawater and can lead to skin breakdown and ulcerations. Vibrio vulnificus is often mistaken as a "flesh eating" bacterium. If the person has an underlying condition that causes them to be immunocompromised, the person may be at higher risk for sepsis and other fatal complications.
About the Author
  • I am a postdoctoral researcher with interests in pre-harvest microbial food safety, nonthermal food processing technologies, zoonotic pathogens, and plant-microbe interactions. My current research projects involve the optimization of novel food processing technologies to reduce the number of foodborne pathogens on fresh produce. I am a food geek!
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