A Taoyuan doctor has urged the public to seek immediate medical help if they cut or otherwise injure themselves in the ocean or other marine environment.
Taoyuan General Hospital physician Chen Yu-hsu (陳俞旭) issued the warning after treating a man who nearly died from a cut he received while cleaning a freshly caught fish.
A 50-year-old man did not seek treatment until he developed a fever and severe swelling in his hands and arms, Chen said.
The man’s cut was infected with Vibrio vulnificus — a bacteria that grows in marine environments such as coastal areas and brackish ponds, Chen said.
“If an open wound is exposed to water where this bacteria is present, it will propagate in the wound, causing an ulcer and swelling, and then skin necrosis,” the physician said.
If could also lead to compartment syndrome — when pressure inside the body’s muscles builds to dangerous levels — or sepsis, he said.
As Vibrio vulnificus infections often go unnoticed in the early stages, people often seek treatment too late, and the mortality rate for such infections is about 55 percent, he said.
Doctors can treat the infected cuts or wounds with antibiotics, but must sometimes cut away skin that has been compromised, while in cases of compartment syndrome, emergency surgery is usually required to save the affected limb and the patient’s life, Chen said.
“Oftentimes small cuts are overlooked, so people who enjoy spending time at the beach should make sure they do not have any open cuts before going into the water,” nurse Lee Shu-feng (李書鳳) said.
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