Seaweed Infected With Flesh Eating Bacteria Washing Up on Florida Shores

Seaweed Infected With Flesh Eating Bacteria Washing Up on Florida Shores

Florida is currently dealing with an influx of seaweed washing ashore that is tainted with flesh-eating bacteria.

Scientists say the mounds of seaweed washing up on beaches in the Sunshine State contain the Vibrio bacteria. The waterborne bacterium clings to plastic in the water, which in turn gets tangled up in seaweed. Since water pollution continues to be an international issue, Vibrio has become more aggressive, seeking out and sticking to plastic easier.

What makes this more troubling is that a 5,000-mile-wide clump of seaweed known as the “Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt” is currently headed to Florida, posing a severe risk to beachgoers and those who live along the coast. Once the seaweed decays, it emits a strong odor and spreads the bacteria across the sand. This means that those who merely walk on the beach or coastlines are at risk of getting sick.

In more common cases, humans are infected with Vibrio by consuming raw seafood. Symptoms of Vibrio infection include diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, fever, chills, and ear infections. However, those with open wounds that make contact with Vibrio are at risk of contracting necrotizing fasciitis, a potentially deadly flesh-eating disease.

Experts believe the majority of the seaweed will arrive in June and July, though beach lovers should maintain caution whenever they spot large chunks of seaweed. In 2022, the Florida Department of Health documented 17 Vibrio-related deaths and 74 Vibrio bacteria infections. That outbreak was attributed to Hurricane Ian pushing the seaweed inward.

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