Beach goers beware of ocean bacteria - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Beach goers beware of ocean bacteria

Posted by Elizabeth Stewart - email

PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - Now that summer is here, lots of folks are hitting the beaches but with the warmer waters sometimes comes dangerous bacteria. So before you take a dip in the ocean, you may want to think twice.

Vibrio Vulnificas is a little known bacteria that naturally occurs in warm coastal waters. It shows up in oysters but it can be free forming bacteria in warmer waters. That's why beach goers are now being told to be careful when swimming in the ocean.

"If you have any open sores you probably should even avoid going swimming until those heal up as a safety precaution," says Tim O'Connor from the Palm Beach County Health Department.

While there have been no reports of Vibrio Vulnificas in Palm Beach County in the last two years, the Florida Department of Health shows statewide 138 people were infected with the bacteria between 2005 and 2009. Thirty-one of those people died.

You can contract an infection from the bacteria two ways-- through direct contact with sea water and an open cut or by consuming raw or under cooked shellfish, especially contaminated oysters.

Despite the potential risks, beach goers and tourists like Ryan Portman from Louisville, Kentucky weren't overly concerned. "I'm not here for very long so I'm not worried about it but I know people that live here so I'm gonna let them know about it."

Officials say if you do go for a swim in the ocean, always rinse off afterwards. Whether you have an open wound or not, it's always better to be safe than sorry.

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