Health officials are warning coastal residents and visitors to be careful after a waterborne bacteria called vibrio killed an Eastern Virginia man.

According to experts at EVMS, vibrios are a class of bacteria present in salt and brackish water all over the world. The levels are much higher during warm weather.

Most people experience gastrointestinal distress after eating raw or undercooked shellfish. 

Others types of vibrio can make its way into the bloodstream through an open wound in brackish water. In these cases it can cause severe skin and soft tissue infections. The most serious version can lead to necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh eating disease. 

The CDC reports that about 1 in 4 people with this type of infection die, sometimes within a day or two of getting sick.

“Once suspected, treatment is urgent and requires an aggressive combined surgical and medical approach,” says Nancy Khardori, MD, PhD, Professor of Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease. “Patients who are young and otherwise healthy have a higher chance of survival.”

The best way to reduce your chance of becoming infected is to avoid raw or undercooked shellfish. Don’t wade or swim in brackish water if you have an open wound.