A spokesperson for the Mississippi State Department of Health has confirmed one case of vibrio vulnificus in Hancock County.
The person with the bacterial infection is a Hancock County man who has not been identified.
Liz Sharlot, director of communications for the Mississippi State Department of Health, said she could not comment on the condition of the man or where he contracted the bacterial infection.
Baton Rouge resident Richard Empson, 69, was vacationing with family on a beach in Waveland when he contracted a bacterial infection that has not been confirmed as vibrio.
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The Advocate reported Empson was taken to Hancock Medical Center in Bay St. Louis on June 27. He had part of his leg amputated the next day.
Empson’s family said on YouCaring, a crowdfunding site, that he is recovering and feeling better.
Officials did not test water in the Mississippi Sound after hearing about Empson’s infection.
Jay Grimes, professor of marine microbiology at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Lab, told the Sun Herald last week the level of bacteria in the water rises during the summer months.
“It’s always there anyway,” Grimes said. “Testing the water would not tell us anything. As it is getting warmer, there will be more bacteria.”
Vibrio is a strain of naturally occurring bacteria that live in saltwater or brackish water, according to the Department of Marine Resources, and it could cause infection in people through cuts or scrapes if it is present in the water. It could also be contracted as a foodborne illness from eating raw seafood. The strain vibrio vulnificus has been labeled as “flesh-eating bacteria,” the DMR has said, “because wound infections may lead to skin breakdown.”
Sharlot has said vibrio is not a “flesh-eating” bacteria. She said that term came about because vibrio causes blisters and skin ailments on the body.
Most strains in South Mississippi carry vibrio vulnificus hemolysin, Grimes said. He said it is dangerous because VVH attaches to red blood cells but also attacks other cells in the body. The vibrio will “poke a hole” in cells, causing them to leak and eventually die, he said.
In 2015, the MSDH recorded 14 cases of vibrio in the state. Of those cases, six were vibrio vulnificus patients, and there was one fatality reported as a result of the infection. Sharlot said no cases of vibrio have yet been reported to the state for this season.