Ochsner warns about flesh-eating bacteria in Gulf waters

Ochsner warns about flesh-eating bacteria in Gulf waters

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - If you plan to visit a beach in South Louisiana this summer, physicians at Ochsner want you to understand the risks, such as coming into contact with flesh-eating bacteria.

Flesh-eating bacteria can be found in bodies of water throughout the Gulf Coast, specifically brackish (bays, marshes and mouths of rivers) or salt water.

You can be exposed to this bacteria by direct contact with the water and/or by consuming contaminated seafood.


  • Direct contact
  • Consuming contaminated seafood

For most people, swimming in this water will not cause any harm. However, those with open wounds or sores have an elevated risk to contract flesh-eating bacteria. Many people simply forget about common open wounds such as animal bites or fresh tattoos.


  • Having open wounds or sores, animal bites or fresh tattoos
  • Handling sharp hooks or knives near water (fishermen)
  • Eating contaminated seafood that’s raw/undercooked (especially if you have a low immune system)

"Don't be afraid to enjoy a beautiful day at the beach," says Ochsner primary care physician Tim Durel, M.D.


  • 16777 Medical Center Dr.
  • Baton Rouge

"However, if you've recently had a deep cut that required stitches, you should probably avoid the water until its completely healed."

It's nearly impossible to be aware of every small scrape or scratch, so discovering a small abrasion should not lead to panic.

"The best thing to do after swimming is to take a shower. The showers at the beach are meant to rinse off sand, so you should shower back at your home or hotel room with soap."

Fishermen are generally the most likely to contract flesh-eating bacteria due to their handling of sharp hooks and knifes and constant exposure to water. Quickly washing fresh cuts with soap and clean water is advised.

Generally, contaminated seafood doesn't lead to serious problems unless ingested in large raw or undercooked quantities or by people with low immune systems.  Thoroughly cooking seafood offers the best protection.

Ochsner physicians say you're much more likely to get sunburn than a flesh-eating bacteria infection, so don't forget water resistant, minimum SPF 30 sunscreen. Doctors recommend you apply it liberally and often (at least every two hours).

For more information or to schedule an appointment with an Ochsner practitioner, call 225-761-5200.

Copyright 2018 WAFB. All rights reserved.