Water Warning

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By Linda Cicoira — The Eastern Shore Health District is warning residents not to enter bodies of water if they have cuts or abrasions and to clean wounds at once to reduce the risk of infection. Those with low-immune systems or chronic conditions also need to beware.

“Many harmful micro-organisms are found in lakes, rivers, along the coast, and in other bodies of water,” according to a prepared statement. “Some bacteria may lead to destructive soft-tissue infections and other illnesses,” the Virginia Department of Public Health cautions. “Most soft-tissue infections occur with either injury or with conditions of low immunity. However, sometimes otherwise healthy people can develop a skin infection after skin injury and being exposed to natural bodies of water.”

“If a person has open wounds, cuts, abrasions, and sores,” he or she should stay out of the water, the announcement continued. “Persons with low immune systems, cancer, diabetes, liver disease, and other chronic conditions should avoid eating raw or undercooked seafood, especially oysters. Vibrio bacteria can enter the body through a break in the skin or by consuming contaminated seafood. If a person gets a cut while in the water, immediately wash the wound with soap and fresh water. If the wound shows any signs of infection (redness, pain or swelling) or if the cut is deep, get medical attention immediately.”

“Vibrio illness symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, chills, fever, shock, skin lesions, and wound infections. In someone with a compromised immune system, the bacteria can infect the bloodstream and may result in death. With Vibrio skin infections, surgery may be necessary. For all cases of Vibrio, it is important to begin treatment immediately because early medical care and antibiotics improve survival.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 80,000 people in the U.S. become sick with vibriosis each year, and 100 people die from their infection. As of June 1, there have been four cases of vibriosis in Virginia compared to five the same time last year. 

Learn more about vibrio illness at www.cdc.gov/vibrio and www.vdh.virginia.gov/Epidemiology/factsheets/pdf/Vibrio.pdf