I think it's interesting to follow what infectious disease stories are picked up by the press and (no pun intended) go viral and which ones are ignored. There doesn't seem to be much of a pattern except that post-Ebola the media is definitely covering infectious diseases stories much more regularly,
A case in point is the interest in the Vibrio vulnificus infections in Florida. What triggered the media coverage were 2 fatal cases and the, shark attack connoting phrase, "flesh-eating". While this is an important infection for myriad reasons, it is unclear to me what is new.
Some facts about this microbe:
- This infection was known to Hippocrates!
- The US experiences about 100 cases annually -- a little more than the number of shark attacks in the US in 2010
- Most oysters harbor the bacterium
- There are clear risk factors for severe disease, chiefly liver disease, which can include necrotic skin lesions as well as bloodstream infections
The formula here is one either ingests the bacteria while eating raw shellfish (always a risk) or gets exposed in the ocean where V.vulnificus naturally lives and thrives in summer. As I mentioned above, there are clear risk factors for severe disease and nowhere near all exposures result in severe disease. So, if you have liver disease raw shellfish and Gulf Coast ocean swimming will always be a risk and astute physicians have been warning their patients of that risk for decades.
When this infection is put into its proper context, it will be safe to go back in the water again.