Beach Watch: Vibrio vulnificus naturally occurs in salt, brackish water Texas Beach Watch relates to Enteroccocus found in rainwater runoff
GALVESTON COUNTY, Texas – Temperatures are warming and soon, millions of Texans will travel to the beach. As plans are being made, Galveston County Health District (GCHD) is working to educate the public about the often misunderstood Vibrio vulnificus.
Vibrio vulnificus is naturally present in salt and brackish water around the world. It is not unique to the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston, or even Texas, and is not associated with pollution. Infections from Vibrio vulnificus are rare.
Pre-existing conditions like diabetes, liver disease, cancer or other immune suppressing conditions can put people at an increased risk of contracting Vibrio vulnificus if they have open cuts and sores and come in contact with the bacteria while swimming in natural bodies of water. Healthy people are extraordinarily less likely to get an infection than the ill.
“Swimming in natural bodies of water anywhere comes with risk,” said Dr. Philip Keiser, Galveston County local health authority. “To reduce that risk, beachgoers with open cuts or sores, especially those with pre-existing conditions, should avoid swimming or check with their doctor first.”
People who suffer cuts while in natural bodies of water anywhere should immediately leave the water, thoroughly clean the wound and do not return until the wound heals. It’s important to keep an eye on the area for infection or swelling.
“If infection or swelling happens, see a doctor immediately,” Keiser said. “Vibrio vulnificus infections are treatable, especially if caught early. Wearing water shoes while swimming and gloves or waders while fishing can help prevent cuts.”
Most of those who get infections recover without long-term health consequences. More than 10 million people visited Texas beaches in 2017 and less than 0.00034 percent acquired Vibrio vulnificus. By comparison, 100 times as many people were killed in vehicle crashes in Texas during the same year.