Five Connecticut residents became ill with infections caused by a “flesh-eating bacteria” in the Long Island Sound over the summer, health officials said.
One woman and four men between the ages of 49 and 85 caught the “extremely rare” Vibrio vulnificus infection in July and August, the Connecticut Department of Public Health said in a statement.
Two residents were hospitalized with septicemia, or a bloodstream infection, and three were sent to the hospital with “serious wound infections,” according to the health department.
“All five cases reported exposure to salt or brackish water during activities such as swimming, crabbing, and boating,” health officials said. “All five patients had pre-existing wounds or sustained new wounds during these activities which led to the Vibrio infections.”
None of the five people died from their illnesses.
People who contract Vibrio vulnificus can end up with serious infections, and may have to get their limbs amputated. Vibrio vulnificus can also cause necrotizing fasciitis infections, otherwise known as “flesh-eating bacteria” infections, according to a fact-sheet from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Connecticut’s health department said only seven cases of necrotizing fasciitis were reported between 2010 and 2019.
“The identification of these five cases over two months is very concerning,” said Dr. Matthew Cartter, the state epidemiologist for the Health Department. “This suggests the Vibrio bacteria may be present in salt or brackish water in or near Long Island Sound, and people should take precautions.”
The CDC warns anyone with a fresh wound, including those from recent surgery, piercings, or tattoos, to stay out of saltwater.
The agency also recommends covering any wounds with waterproof bandages if they could come into contact with saltwater, and to wash wounds and cuts thoroughly with soap and water if they are exposed to seawater.