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Flesh-eating bacteria found in seaweed on state beaches

Flesh-eating bacteria found in seaweed on state beaches
Flesh-eating bacteria found in seaweed on state beaches 01:57

HOLLYWOOD -  As South Floridians know, there's nothing like a day of enjoying the sun and the sand, but with the beauty of the beach often comes the creepy kelp in the ocean.

If you've been to the beach recently you may have noticed more seaweed. Most beachgoers hate it because it's sticky and it smells bad, but now we're learning the bacteria in it can cause serious infections in humans."

This bacterium is known as Vibrio vulnificus and it can be found in decaying seaweed.

"It can infect open wounds and cause very serious infections that can become systemic," said Dr. Cynthia Silveria, an assistant professor at the University of Miami. 

The bacteria are flesh-eating and can lead to amputations or intensive care.

While infections are typically rare, data from the CDC reveals that 1 in 5 people with this infection can die, sometimes within 48 hours of becoming infected.

"There have been cases of infections with Vibrio vulnificus in Florida. Some of those were associated with storm surge events after hurricanes or during hurricanes. But the fact that they are present in the seaweed and in higher abundance than they are in the seawater surrounding the seaweed does indicate that there might be a need to monitor," said Dr. Silveria

While infections are rare, it's important to make sure you're doing what you can to stay safe at Florida beaches this summer.

"If you have open wounds, maybe avoid going to the beach, because even the water or other sources the sand, sargassum can have pathogenic organisms. After going to the beach, recommend that you shower and bathe to remove any organisms that you may have picked up," Dr. Helena Solo-Gabriele, a professor at the University of Miami

For more information about Vibrio vulnificus, click here.

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