"Flesh-eating" bacteria scares shouldn't keep you off Texas beaches

"Flesh-eating" bacteria scares shouldn't keep you off Texas beaches, by Larry McKinney

Reel Summer Fun! ~ July Subscriber Newsletter

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Vibrio Vulnificus Not Confirmed in Port Aransas

Recent reports have been made regarding an Austin area man contracting Vibrio Vulnificus while in Port Aransas. These reports are speculative. There is no way to know where or how he contracted the bacteria. During his stay in the Coastal Bend, he visited beaches in Corpus Christi and went fishing in Rockport.

Read more: Vibrio Vulnificus Not Confirmed in Port Aransas

For Information on Current Beach Conditions in Port Aransas

Water samples collected weekly by the Texas Land Office at Texas Gulf beaches are tested for the Enterococcus bacteria, or fecal bacteria. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended single sample maximum criterion for Enterococcus bacteria is 104 colony forming units (CFU) per 100 ml. When the counts are above this level, swimming is not recommended. When high bacteria levels are present, samples are collected daily until bacteria levels return to normal levels. 

We measure the bacteria counts and rate the beach advisory levels as follows:

•  Low - Bacteria counts less than 35 cfu/100 ml.

•  Medium - Bacteria counts are between 35 and 104 cfu/100 ml.

•  High - Bacteria counts are greater than 104 cfu/100 ml. An advisory for this beach is recommended.

There is currently no federal, state or local governmental agency testing for the presence of vibrio Vulnificus bacteria, commonly referred to as flesh eating bacteria, in coastal waters. Apparently vibrio is the bacteria contracted by two individuals swimming in two different areas of the coast this month.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The Vibrio species that cause vibriosis naturally live in brackish or salt water. People with vibriosis become infected by consuming raw or undercooked seafood or exposing a wound to seawater. Most infections occur from May through October when water temperatures are warmer.”

There are risks associated with swimming in all non-treated bodies of water, including oceans, bays, rivers, and lakes.  Anyone with an open wound or cut, especially those with a compromised immune system, should avoid exposure to untreated water and if a cut is exposed to untreated water, it should be thoroughly cleaned to kill any potential bacteria that might be present.

Beachgoers are encouraged to visit:

Texas Beach Watch.com

Texas Department of State Health Services

Forum: Knowing ‘flesh-eating bacteria'

The dog days of summer are here, and with them come reports of illnesses and deaths caused by Vibrio vulnificus, nicknamed the "flesh-eating bacteria." As a marine biologist, I find myself getting frustrated when I read media reports of people infected by V. vulnificus because they often leave the reader with a sense of panic and the idea that our beaches are not safe.

Read more: Forum: Knowing ‘flesh-eating bacteria'

"Laid-back Beach Towns" by Paula Disbrowe

"Laid-back Beach Towns" by Paula Disbrowe

"Let Go to the Beach" photo by Earl Nottingham

Read more: "Let Go to the Beach" photo by Earl Nottingham

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