TAMPA BAY, Fla. (WSVN) — At least five individuals lost their lives due to a rare flesh-eating bacteria that has emerged along the Gulf Coast. The victims succumbed to infections believed to have been contracted from the warm Gulf waters, known to be a natural habitat for the bacterium.

After the summer season arrived, health authorities and experts sounded the alarm over the severity of the situation and cautioned individuals who frequent the Gulf waters to exercise caution.

Though infections are rare, health officials said those with open wounds, cuts or scrapes should stay out of the water.

Of particular concern are individuals who consume raw seafood, as they are also deemed vulnerable to contracting the disease. The consumption of undercooked or raw seafood potentially exposes individuals to harmful pathogens, making them more susceptible to infections like the flesh-eating bacteria.

In 2023, Florida has already recorded 26 instances of this infection. Health officials stress that while the total number of cases remains relatively low, the severity of the illness demands heightened vigilance and prompt medical attention.

Authorities are advising individuals to take necessary precautions to minimize the risk of infection. This includes avoiding swimming in warm coastal waters with open wounds, thoroughly cooking seafood before consumption, and promptly seeking medical attention in the presence of any concerning symptoms.

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