Contrary to popular belief, wading in the ocean to heal cuts and scrapes isn't always the best idea.
A little-known, deadly bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus, which naturally occurs in warm coastal waters, can infect the open wounds of beachgoers and incite a life-threatening illness in those with weakened immune systems.
Between 2005 and 2009, 138 people were infected with the bacteria in Florida -- 31 died, according to the Florida Department of Health.
``The high mortality rate makes it a big deal,'' said Juan A. Suarez, a regional environmental epidemiologist for FDH, who said the bacteria proliferates in waters where temperature and salinity are increasing, particularly between the months of April and November.
There are two main ways of contracting an infection from the bacteria: Through direct contact between sea water and an open cut or by consuming raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly contaminated oysters.
In Miami-Dade County, there have been two Vibrio vulnificus deaths in the past five years.
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