Five cases of Vibrio vulnificus infections have been reported to the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) since July, officials said in a press release.
This bacteria can infect open wounds upon exposure to warm salt or brackish water (a mixture of fresh and saltwater). This is an “extremely rare illness,” officials said; only seven cases were reported statewide from 2010 to 2019.
“The identification of these five cases over two months is very concerning,” Dr. Matthew Cartter, state epidemiologist for DPH, said in the press release. “This suggests the Vibrio bacteria may be present in salt or brackish water in or near Long Island Sound, and people should take precautions.”
After the bacteria enters the body, it can infect the bloodstream and lead to serious illness, hospitalization, limb amputation, and even death.
Officials said an estimated 1 in 5 people with this infection dies, and in some cases, death can occur within 48 hours of becoming sick. Those at greatest risk for illness are the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, per the release.
All of the five reported cases were among adults aged between 49 to 85 who had preexisting wounds or sustained new wounds after activities like swimming, crabbing, and boating, which led to the infections. All five patients were hospitalized. Two patients had an infection of the bloodstream while three had serious wound infections, officials wrote. No deaths were reported.
To stay safe, health officials advise avoiding saltwater or brackish water if you have a wound, including recent tattoos and piercings. Do not wade in the water. Cover wounds with waterproof bandages and ensure thorough washing after exposure to "saltwater, brackish water, raw seafood, or its juices," officials said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it's also possible to get these infections "from eating raw or undercooked oysters and other seafood." To learn more about Vibrio infections from the CDC, click here.