Virulent Skin Infections From Cuts Exposed To Sea Water
Many people feel that exposing cuts to sea water can assist in the healing process. According to this article in Medpagetoday, not only is this old remedy not correct, it is downright dangerous.
Small cuts and scrapes contaminated with sea water can lead to Vibrio infections with serious illness, amputations, and even death, researchers reported in a CDC study. Vibrio is a common bacterium.
In a CDC study of 3,344 Vibrio infections reported between January 1997 and June 2004, 813 (24%) resulted from infected wounds. Of those, more than half of the patients required hospitalization and 77 (9.5%) died, according to Amy Dechet, M.D., a CDC field epidemiologist.
Most Vibrio infections in the U.S. are associated with eating raw or undercooked seafood, but of those studied, more than two-thirds of patients were infected while participating in recreational activities, such as boating, surfing, swimming, or walking on the beach, Dr. Dechet reported at a meeting of the Infectious Disease Society of America here.
The other commonly detected strains in the study were V. alginolyticus (27%) and V. parahemolyticus (17%). In particular, surfers in California presented with ear infections due to V. alginolyticus.
Treatment recommendations include washing wounds with soap and lots of fresh water. If a wound does appear to worsen, ?prompt and aggressive medical care should be sought,? Dr. Dechet said. Typical presenting symptoms were cellulitis and increased warmth or redness and pain at the site of the wound one to three days after exposure.
?It is important that physicians consider Vibrio as a source of infections,? she emphasized. Delaying treatment more than two days after the onset of symptoms increased the risk of death. Because contact with salty or brackish water was necessary for infection with Vibrio, Dr. Dechet advised physicians to ask about a patient?s recent travel and recreational history when someone presents with infected cuts.
Although the majority of the infections in the study were the result of contact with warm Gulf Coast waters, infections occurred after visits to both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Unlike the Vibrio strain that causes cholera (Vibrio cholerae), the bacteria associated with these infections do not appear to be contagious, Dr. Dechet said.
Avoid being in sea water if you have open cuts. If you have an infection and have been in sea water lately, let your physician know asap.
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