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Conn. Health officials warn about wound infections from LI Sound waters

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Five Connecticut residents were hospitalized this summer for a serious infection caused by a dangerous bacterium in the Long Island Sound coastline area, state health officials warned.

According to the state public health service, four men and one woman (one in July and four in August) were diagnosed. The patient was 49-85 years old, officials said.

Dr. Matthew Carter, a state epidemiologist at the Connecticut Department of Health, said: “This suggests that Vibrio may be present in saltwater or brackish water in or near Long Island Sound, and people should take precautions.

State Health Department spokeswoman Jeffrey Hammond said two cases of Vibrio vulnificus were reported in New York this year, neither of which had anything to do with rural waterways.

“Because vibriosis is often caused by eating or handling raw or undercooked shellfish, DOH examines these cases to determine if there is a common source of exposure.” Said Hammond.

Professor Christopher Gobler of Stony Brook University’s School of Marine Atmospheric Sciences called Vibrio vulnificus a “new discovery” in the Long Island region, and the species became endemic at warmer water temperatures in southern New York, including the Chesapeake Bay.

“So we can add this to the list of aquatic microbes we are worried about,” Gobler said. “We certainly need to take it seriously, but we need more information about its distribution.”

In all five Connecticut cases, patients reported exposure to saltwater or brackish-freshwater and saltwater mixed waters while swimming, crabs, or boating. According to officials, all five had existing wounds or persistent new wounds, leading to infection.

Two patients developed sepsis, an infection of the bloodstream, while the other three had a serious wound infection. No deaths have been reported.

Vibrio vulnificus infections are rare, with only seven cases reported in Connecticut between 2010 and 2019, officials said.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, many people in Vibrio vulnificus require intensive care or limb amputation, and often about 20% die within a day or two of getting sick. Some Vibrio vulnificus infections are serious infections that lead to necrotizing fasciitis, often known as “carnivorous bacteria,” and the flesh around the open wound dies.

People with weakened immunity and the elderly are at greatest risk of illness.

The CDC advises people with open wounds to avoid contact with salt or brackish water, such as swimming or walking on the beach, or to cover the wound with a waterproof bandage. Wounds should be washed with soap and water.

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