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DPH warns of an unusual number of infections caused by bacteria in saltwater or brackish water

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According to a Connecticut Public Health Service press release • 09/14/2020 10:08 am EST

The Connecticut Public Health Service (DPH) warns residents of coastal areas of the potential danger of exposure to salt and brackish water along Long Island Sound due to the unusually high levels of bacterial infections in the water. ..

5 cases since July Vibrio vulnificus Infectious diseases have been reported to DPH (once in July and four times in August). Patients are from Fairfield (1), Middlesex (1), and New Haven (3) counties and are 49-85 years old (median 73). Four are men and one is a woman. Two patients had sepsis (bloodstream infection) and three had serious wound infections. All 5 patients were hospitalized. N deaths have been reported.

All five reported exposure to salt or brackish water during activities such as swimming, crabs and boating. All five patients had existing or persistent new wounds that led to Vibrio infection during these activities.

“The identification of the five cases in these two months is very worrisome,” said Dr. Matthew Cartter, a DPH state epidemiologist. “This suggests that Vibrio may be present in saltwater or brackish water in or near Long Island Sound, and people need to take precautions.”

Vibrio vulnificus infection is a very rare disease. Between 2010 and 2019, only 7 cases were reported in Connecticut. V. vulnificus can cause wound infections when open wounds are exposed to warm salt water or brackish water (a mixture of salt and fresh water). When bacteria enter the body, they infect the bloodstream and cause sepsis. People infected with V. vulnificus may become seriously ill and require intensive care or limb amputation. About one person with this type of Vibrio infection dies, sometimes within a day or two of the onset of the disease. People with weakened immunity and the elderly are at greatest risk of illness due to V. vulnificus.

You can reduce the chance of a Vibrio wound infection by following these tips:

• If you have a wound (recent surgery, piercings, tattoos, etc.), keep away from salt or brackish water if possible. This includes playing in the water on the beach.

• If the wound may come in contact with seawater, brackish water, or raw or undercooked seafood and its juice, cover the wound with a waterproof bandage. This contact can occur during routine activities such as swimming, fishing and walking on the beach.

• Rinse any scratches or cuts thoroughly with soap and water after contact with salt water, brackish water, raw seafood, or its juice.

For more information on V. vulnificus infections, please visit: www.cdc.gov/vibrio/wounds.html..

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