2 cases of flesh eating bacteria in Sarasota

2 cases of flesh eating bacteria in Sarasota
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Two people have contracted flesh eating bacteria in Sarasota County, Fla., in the last month. One victim has died.

The Sarasota County Department of Health said both victims were middle aged and had compromising medical conditions. Both are believed to have gotten the infection through open wounds on their bodies.

Vibrio vulnificus -- the bacteria that can lead to the "flesh eating" condition also known as "necrotizing fasciitis" -- live in warm, salty waters. While infections are rare, health officials say individuals should take precautions.

Infections in people with those types of conditions have a 50 percent fatality rate.

When it infects the skin via open wounds, Vibrio vulnificus can cause skin breakdown and ulcers. Ingestion of the bacteria can trigger vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

People with weakened immune systems, especially those with chronic liver disease, are the most at risk when they eat raw shellfish, especially oysters, health officials said, because oysters filter the bacteria from the water. Eating a single contaminated oyster can kill.

States in the Gulf Coast region average about 50 cases, 45 hospitalizations and 16 deaths annually, according to the Florida Department of Health. Most of the cases are in Florida, which has averaged about 27 cases annually over the past five years.

A total of 41 cases of Vibrio vulnificus were reported statewide in 2014, and there have been at least 11 cases and several deaths due to the infection of an open wound or from consuming raw shellfish.

Click here for more on this story from our CNN affiliate in Tampa Bay, WTSP.