Florida Sees Flesh-Eating Bacteria Cases Rise in the wake of Hurricane Ian

Hurricane Ian

During the latter part of September and the beginning of October 2022, Hurricane Ian, a sizable tropical storm, significantly damaged western Cuba, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina with storm and flooding. Around 160 people were killed due to flash flooding brought on by the storm's ferocious winds, heavy rain, and coastal storm waves, which also caused significant property damage in the places it passed.

As a category-4 hurricane that made landfall in Florida, Ian was the fifth-strongest storm to ever hit the United States, with maximum sustained winds of around 240 kilometers (150 miles) per hour. One of the most expensive natural disasters in American history, according to preliminary estimates, the storm caused infrastructure and property damages of at least $50–65 billion.

Story of Hewitt

In response to Hurricane Ian, James Hewitt leaped to assist his friend with repairs to his Florida home. He finished the phone and began to pack his bags almost immediately.

The Washington Post quoted Hewitt's fiancée Leah Delano saying, "He was quite excited."

She claimed that on October 4, nearly a week since Ian came ashore, Hewitt departed their Jenison, Michigan, home for Naples. According to Delano, he assisted his friend with boat and house repairs and cleared debris from the city that had suffered severe flooding due to the hurricane. However, Hewitt, 56, fell out of his friend's boat into a waterway that Saturday and scraped his leg.

Hewitt had a temperature and a swollen leg early the following day, according to 54-year-old Delano. When he arrived at the hospital, he was immediately sent to the critical care unit after the medical staff discovered he had sepsis. This condition can be fatal when a person's body excessively responds to an infection.

Hewitt passed away on Tuesday, three days after he got into trouble at sea. Delano claimed that Hewitt had contracted Vibrio vulnificus after being treated by medical professionals.

Effect of Hurricane Ian

Hurricane Ian left more than just a path of destruction and property damage in its wake. This week, the Florida Department of Health reported a sharp increase in illnesses caused by flesh-eating bacteria. These bacteria may thrive in warm brackish flood waters, a combination of fresh and saltwater typically seen where rivers meet the sea.

According to The Florida Dept. of Health reports, infectious infections like Vibrio vulnificus, the alleged "flesh-eating bacteria," are among the many threats from flood waters and stagnant floodwaters after a cyclone.

What is "Flesh Eating Bacteria"?

A dangerous wound infection, septicemia, and diarrhea can all be brought on by the gram-negative bacterium Vibrio vulnificus. In the US, it is the main factor contributing to mortality from eating shellfish. People with persistent underlying illnesses are more susceptible to V. vulnificus infections than healthy people; those with hemochromatosis or liver disease are particularly at risk.

Because certain V. vulnificus infections produce necrotizing fasciitis, a severe condition where the tissue surrounding an open wound dies, other V. vulnificus symptoms are referred to as "flesh-eating" infections. This kind of infection is uncommon, yet it has the potential to kill by rapidly spreading throughout the body. Warm, salty seas are the ideal habitat for this bacterium, in which it can flourish.

Cases and Reports

Compared to 2021, which had 34 cases and ten deaths, this year has seen 65 cases and 11 fatalities associated with the V. vulnificus bacteria. The impact of Category 4 Hurricane Ian, which devastatingly battered Florida on September 28, is noted by the county health department as being an unprecedented spike in these statistics.

In the US, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control estimate that one out of five Vibrio vulnificus victims passes away, usually just a day or two after becoming unwell.

How did the bacterial infection spread?

As a result of frequent sewage overflows that follow a hurricane, flesh-eating bacteria flourish in these coastal waters. According to experts, when sewage leaks into the water, they introduce particles that bacteria prefer to eat.

Only if it can get inside the body will the germs become dangerous. According to medical professionals and researchers, Vibrio vulnificus can penetrate the skin if there is a break in it and occasionally cause severe diseases. In light of this, Florida health officials advise against going near the water if you have recently sustained cuts or injuries.

The risk of developing a severe infection from this bacterium is highest in immunocompromised people. According to the department of public health, people with weakened immune systems, long-term kidney disease, or stomach or liver disease should wear appropriate footwear protection to safeguard themselves from cuts and scrapes from beach rocks and shells.

Consuming undercooked shellfish and oysters also could result in V. vulnificus infestations.

Measures and Words by the Health Department

The National Center for Disease Prevention and Control emphasizes the importance of prompt antibiotic therapy to arrest the infection and stop it from spreading to healthy tissues. According to the Organization for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, the ability to recuperate will only be improved if contaminated and dead tissue is removed surgically.

A life-threatening condition may show symptoms including fever, chills, low blood pressure, and blistered skin sores, according to Florida health officials, who advise the public to be alert of these signs.

Although necrotizing fasciitis seldom spreads to other people, it can be challenging to identify because of how closely its symptoms match those of other illnesses or infections.

  • Early signs may include a region of skin that is red or inflamed and spreads swiftly, extreme discomfort that extends beyond the red or swollen region of the skin, and fever.

  • Ulcers, blistering or black patches on the skin, variations in skin color, pus, or leaking out from the area of infection are later symptoms. Nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, or dizziness may also occur.


Experts who believe climate change might enhance the microbiological danger believe that as natural catastrophes grow increasingly severe, more public funds and assets need to be directed toward safeguarding the country's most vulnerable areas by strengthening infrastructure. Along with the salty water that powerful storm surges like Ian carry inland, warmer temperatures, and increasing sea levels will probably make it easier for Vibrio to survive further north.

Although antibiotics are used to treat the infection, it is occasionally necessary to amputate the affected limb. Not one individual can contract Vibrio vulnificus from another. It is urged that people seek emergency medical assistance if they are worried they may have been contaminated.