It’s that time again. In the back of our minds, we’re wondering if swimming locally in Lake Charles or in the Gulf of Mexico is safe. Not because of jelly fish, undertow, or sharks, but flesh-eating bacteria that, over the years, has claimed several lives that hit close to home here in Louisiana and Texas. The official name for this bacteria is Vibrio vulnificus, and it can claim limbs and lives if not handled correctly.

Of course, who doesn’t love a cool dip on a hot summer day, but could it turn deadly? And, if I start feeling weird after a swim, what should I do? I by no means stayed in whatever hotel chain that makes me a subject matter genius on this, so let’s hear from the professionals.

Vibrio vulnificus thrives in salty water and warm temperatures. In an interview with WLOX, Dr. David Spencer, Sr. cautioned, "This disease process can become near full limit within 12 hours to 72 hours after exposure. Once it gets into the blood stream, the mortality is at least 50 percent, if not greater."

A huge destination for Lake Charles and SWLA beachgoers is Galveston, TX. They have seen their fair share of deaths and limbs lost due to the flesh eating bacteria in our warm, salty Gulf waters. With summertime activities in full swing such as swimming, water sports, boating, etc. the risk is greater than it would normally be.

It is recommended to wear water shoes and avoid the water if you have a cut. If you do get a cut in the water, clean it immediately with soap, antibiotic ointment and apply a waterproof Band-Aid. Also watch it carefully in the next few days for redness, swelling and to see a medical professional if it gets worse. Those with a weakened immune system are more at risk of not being able to fight off the bacteria if it’s introduced into your blood system.

There is good news, as well. Despite the recent and past cases on the coast, it's still relatively rare in the scheme of how many people are swimming in our waters throughout the summer. The main point is to take the necessary precautions and don’t hesitate to see a doctor if you notice or feel that something is not right with your body after a swim.

Have fun and be careful!

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