Wikimedia Commons | Gloria Bell
Flesh-eating bacteria may seem like the theme of a 1960s-era science fiction novel, but in Texas it's apparently a reality.
Over Father's Day weekend, 42-year-old Adrian Ruiz, who was on a trip to the beach at Port Aransas, developed a rash on his leg and became feverish after contracting Vibrio, a bacteria found in salt and brackish water, according to KXAN
Ruiz is the second man to fall ill from the virus, which can be fatal in people who have immune system problems or if it is contracted through an open cut. Ruiz did not have any cuts.
On June 12, a San Jacinto man who visited Galveston also fell ill. But he didn't go to the doctor right away and his leg had to be amputated from the leg down, the Houston Chronicle reported
However, the bacteria itself doesn't eat flesh. When the body's immune system recognizes an infection, it destroys all the flesh around the infected area, the newspaper reported.
According to the Galveston County Health District
, Vibrio bacteria infections are extremely rare. Of the 6 million visitors to Galveston Island in 2015, there were fewer than 10 cases. Additionally, most people recover, unless the affected person had serious medical issues.
Dr. Abdul-Aziz Alhassan, interim Galveston County local health authority, says the vast majority of people visiting the Gulf Coast have no reason to worry.
“Headlines about ‘flesh eating’ bacteria can garner a lot of attention but the reality is such infections are rare,” Alhassan says in a press release. “While there is little reason for worry among healthy people, we do recommend routine precautions for those with weakened immune systems.”
People with liver disease, diabetes, cancer, stomach disorders or any other issue that weakens the immune system should avoid exposing cuts, open sores or wounds to the water. If there is an open wound that is exposed, it should be washed with soap and fresh water. If there's redness and swelling, fluid build-up or fever, beach-goers should seek medical attention. The infection can be treated successfully with antibiotics if identified early.
Eighty percent of infections occur between May and October when waters are warmer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.