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As Oceans Warm, a Flesh-eating Bacterium is Creeping North

The Vibrio vulnificus pathogen thrives in hot coastal waters

If you were planning on a shore vacation this year, you might have kept track of great white sharks. The apex predator made famous by Jaws (and, OK, by The Meg and Sharknado) has been spotted on East Coast beaches from South Carolina up past Cape Cod, leaving potential beachcombers worried by accounts of close encounters and attacks.

But many marine biologists are worried about a much smaller—in fact, microscopic—threat. They are tracking an unprecedented surge in ocean-going bacteria known as Vibrio, which recently killed three people and sickened a fourth in Connecticut and New York, at least two of them after swimming in the coastal waters of Long Island Sound.

For swimmers and fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico, Vibrio is a known summer foe. It is one of the reasons for the old saying that you shouldn't eat oysters in months that don’t have an R in their name: Warmer water encourages bacterial growth, and oysters accumulate these organisms when they feed. The bacteria is also an infection hazard for anyone who gets a cut while cleaning up soaked debris after a hurricane. But Vibrio appearing in the waters of the upper East Coast is a new and unfamiliar problem, fueled by the rapid ocean warming of climate change.

Please select this link to read the complete article from WIRED.

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