One person in Sarasota County has died from “flesh-eating bacteria,” officials there confirmed Tuesday.
According to a spokesperson with the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County, the patient was middle-aged and had chronic health problems.
The spokesperson said the patient contracted the bacteria after saltwater entered an open wound, but did not offer information beyond that, citing privacy regulations.
The death comes amid concerns about the bacteria thriving in warmer water temperatures that arrive in the Florida summer months.
The county released the limited information about the recent death only after FOX 13 asked about a case listed on a state-issued spreadsheet that included a warning for swimmers and consumers of raw oysters.
Only one case in Sarasota County was listed on the spreadsheet. But spokeswoman Dianne Shipley said there was one other case in Sarasota County this month in a person who also had a chronic health condition.
The bacteria is called vibrio vulnificus. It is potentially deadly in those who battle chronic health conditions. Those who survive the infection often experience symptoms similar to food poisoning.
"For someone who is immuno-compromised, or has chronic liver disease, it could be a life-threatening situation. And it's as simple as going in the water with open cuts or wounds to your skin," said Hillsborough County Health Department spokesperson Steve Huard.
According to the Florida Department of Health, 41 people contracted the bacteria statewide in 2013; 11 of those people died. This year, so far, 11 have contracted it, and three have died.
Hillsborough County also had a case in which they say a 48-year-old man contracted the bacteria after falling into seawater and getting cut. That patient is expected to recover.
In the recent Sarasota County case, officials would not say what body of water the patient contracted the bacteria in, nor the length of time that person battled the infection.
The department spokesperson apologized for not putting the information out sooner.
"I apologize for not immediately getting the information out. I take responsibility," Shipley said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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