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Exposure to seawater proves deadly

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12:51pm, October 18, 2005

From San Francisco, at a meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, open wounds exposed to brackish seawater along the Gulf Coast have led to six deaths and 24 other severe infections from Vibrio bacteria, report researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.

Nineteen varieties of Vibrio bacteria are found naturally in warm seawater, and they cause roughly 400 infections in the United States each year, CDC data show. Most of these infections result from Vibrio microbes ingested by people eating raw shellfish. Those cases are rarely fatal.

However, one-fourth of Vibrio infections arise from subspecies that pass through the skin via scratches, cuts, or abrasions. Among these, infection by Vibrio vulnificus is the most serious, says CDC internist Amy M. Dechet.

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