HARTFORD, Connecticut (WABC) -- Connecticut health officials are warning of a rise in illnesses stemming from the exposure to bacteria in Long Island Sound.
The Department of Public Health is reporting an unusual number of infections caused by Vibrio vulnificus since July, prompting the warning to residents in shoreline areas about the potential dangers of exposure to salt or brackish water.
Vibrio vulnificus is often referred to as flesh eating bacteria because the serious infection can lead to amputations and sometimes death. Though usually contracted by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, the bacteria can enter the body through an open cut exposed to salt or brackish water.
"The identification of these five cases over two months is very concerning," said Dr. Matthew Cartter, the state epidemiologist for the Health Department. "This suggests the Vibrio bacteria may be present in salt or brackish water in or near Long Island Sound, and people should take precautions."
Five cases of Vibrio vulnificus infections have been reported since July, with patients from Fairfield, Middlesex and New Haven counties between the ages of 49 and 85. Four were male and one female.
Two patients had septicemia, an infection of the bloodstream, while three had serious wound infections.
All five patients were hospitalized, and all five cases reported exposure to salt or brackish water during activities such as swimming, crabbing, and boating.
No deaths have been reported.
All five patients had pre-existing wounds or sustained new wounds during these activities, which officials say led to the Vibrio infections.
Vibrio vulnificus infection is an extremely rare illness, with just seven such infections reported in Connecticut between 2010 and 2019.
Anyone headed to Long Island Sound is urged to cover any wounds, recent piercings or new tattoos with waterproof bandages and wash them thoroughly with soap.
For more information, visit CDC.gov/vibrio/wounds.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
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Long Island Sound bacteria entering wounds, causing rare illness in Connecticut