Bay County Health Officials Explain Vibrio Vulnificus

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PANAMA CITY BEACH-- Bay County Health officials are trying to set the record straight regarding Vibrio vulnificus.

Some people have the misconception that the bacteria is a "flesh eating disease."

But, Public Health officials said nothing could be further from the truth. "The narcotizing bacteria that people call 'flesh eating' is completely different than the kind found in salt water," said Bay County Florida Health Administrator Douglas Kent.

"Usually the bacteria that we're more familiar with, with Vibrio is found in more brackish water, water where you don't have much exchange ratio," said Kent.

The recent Vibrio cases have caused a scare among some Florida visitors.

According to Bay County Health officials, people who have certain conditions are at a higher risk than healthy individuals.

"If you are not healthy and your immune system has been compromised or you have liver disease then you should be very careful about what you're doing as far as going in the water if you have open wounds," said Bay County Florida Health Specialist Mike Fluharty.

The salt water-borne disease is commonly found during the summer months.

Health officials said of the millions that visit Florida beaches, only 13 cases have been reported so far this year.

"In Bay County we have not had any Vibrio vulnificus cases this year," said Fluharty.

Bay County Health officials said of the cases reported, those affected by the bacteria were not considered healthy.

Another way Fluharty said to stay safe is not going to the water if you have a fresh wound.

"But as far as Vibrio vulnificus, it's been in the water, it's going to continue to be in the water, and if you are a healthy person you don't need to worry about going into the water," said Fluharty.

The Florida Department of Health in Bay County wants to reassure locals and visitors that no cases have been reported in Bay County, and advise people to take precaution if they are ill or have fresh open wounds.