Weather change may lead to unlikely illnesses in unexpected places, new research suggests: In the past 2 years, five cases of Vibrio vulnificus, a flesh-eating bacterial infection spread by handling or eating contaminated seafood, have been tied to Delaware Bay, where water temperatures have been on the rise in current years, according to a research.
These five victims were operated at one New Jersey hospital and serve as a warning that flesh-eroding bacterial infections are now happening outside the traditional geographic boundaries, the authors said.
“Significant increases in sea surface temperatures” have occurred over the past three decades in many countries of the United States, noted the research, published on Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. Warmer temperatures led to changes in the “quantity, distribution, and seasonal windows of bacteria” in the coastal ecosystem while giving “more favorable conditions for Vibrio,” Doctor stated.
Though Vibrio is endemic off the coast of Virginia and Maryland in the Chesapeake Bay, as well as waters across the southern United States, these illnesses rarely happen from cooler Delaware Bay, whose waters splash southern New Jersey.
“While the infection is still uncommon, it is being seen with more frequency in this region,” Doctor said.
The five victims, who got treatment at New Jersey’s Cooper University Hospital, illustrate this changing reality:
A 38-year-old man came to the hospital vomiting, feverish and with a skin rash on his tender left calf. His blood test confirmed Vibrio, already visible by his dying skin. Though he had not been near Delaware Bay, he worked at a New Jersey restaurant that possibly served seafood from the bay. Successful treatment, which included skin grafts, led to his discharge from the hospital.
The second patient, a 64-year-old man, sought medical care two days after cleaning and eating Delaware Bay crabs. His right hand had started to swell. After verifying Vibrio, his doctors removed portions of deep connective tissue. During a third attempt to remove all the dead and dying skin, the rhythm of the patient’s heart became irregular and he died.
A third man, 46 years old, appeared a trooper University Health Care complaining of a swollen left leg two days after he injured himself while crabbing in Delaware Bay. Skin and blood test verified a Vibrio infection. Flowing blisters on his calf led doctors to remove connective tissue and then perform grafts.