Alabama Health Department Warns About Flesh-Eating Disease

Flesh-eating bacteria has been found in bodies of water throughout Alabama and cases of the disease have been reported along the state's Gulf Coast, health officials warn.

They said Vibrio can be contracted in brackish or salt water, and can also affect people who eat contaminated seafood and those with open wounds exposed to seawater, CBS News reported.

The warning is meant to educate "the general public about wounds and water, safe swimming, and safe consumption of seafood," according to Dr. Karen Landers, assistant state health officer, Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH).

"At this time of year, the ADPH receives increased calls regarding skin infections related to wounds and water as well as the occasional, rare instance of necrotizing fasciitis [flesh-eating bacteria]," she told CBS News "Sometimes, people contract Vibrio in the coastal region and do not become ill until they return to their county or state of residence."

People who get cuts in water should immediately wash the wound with fresh water and soap, and to seek prompt medical attention, the health department said. It also advised people with open wounds and sores to stay out of the water, and said people with with weak immune systems, cancer, diabetes, liver disease and chronic conditions should not eat raw and undercooked seafood -- especially oysters, CBS News reported.

In the past year, the ADPH has confirmed 30 cases of vibriosis in the state. Each year, 80,000 people in the U.S. become sick with Vibrio illness (vibriosis) and 100 die from the infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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