The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries issued a warning for anyone fishing or playing in coastal waters during the summer.
The advisory warns about the potential danger of the saltwater bacteria vibrio vulnificus.
Identified as long as 20 years ago, the bacteria can be fatal. Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals has identified between 10 to 15 cases annually in the state, and the majority of those cases come from seawater coming in contact with the skin, usually finding a host in places where the skin is broken. LDHH data indicates 20 percent of cases come from eating raw seafood.
According to the LDWF’s release, vibrio vulnificus “can cause an infection of the skin when open wounds are exposed to warm seawater; these infections may lead to skin breakdown and ulceration.
“(The bacteria) is often called a ‘flesh-eating bacterium’. Persons who are immunocompromised are at higher risk for invasion of the organism into the bloodstream and potentially fatal complications ... Bloodstream infections are fatal about 50 percent of the time.”
The federal Center or Disease Control and the LDHH reports on the bacteria identified “persons who are immunocompromised, especially those with chronic liver disease, are at risk when they come in contact with seawater or when they eat raw seafood.”
The LDWF advisory added: “A recent study showed that people with these pre-existing medical conditions were 80 times more likely to develop vibrio vulnificus bloodstream infections than were healthy people.”
The best ways to head off this bacteria infection is that all saltwater fishermen need to carry a mixture of one part chlorine bleach to four parts fresh water, or iodine, or antibiotic ointment on every trip.
The LDWF release advised that any or all of these treatments should be used “if skin is punctured while handling fishing tackle, bait or fish. Wade fishermen who injure themselves, breaking the skin and exposing a wound to saltwater, need to take the same precautions.”
After a fishing or recreational trip to the coast, check for rapid swelling around any skin puncture or wound and, if found, seek care immediately.