HOUSTON, July 6 (Xinhua) -- A flesh-eating bacteria has been detected in the Gulf of Mexico and is believed to have caused one death, U.S. media reported Saturday.
The bacteria, known as Vibrio vulnificus, was found in gulf waters in several U.S. states, including Texas and Louisiana, local TV ABC13 reported. Officials said four swimmers have contracted the bacteria, and one of them died.
The victims were supposedly swimming in seawater near the areas of New Orleans and Thibodaux, both in the U.S. state of Louisiana.
Medical doctors said Vibrio vulnificus sickens people in two ways -- by eating raw shellfish and by entering through an open wound.
"You get bacteria into certain wounds, and they can cause a lot of tissue destruction by virtue of the fact that these bacteria produce enzymes that break down the tissue," said Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious and tropical disease expert at Baylor College of Medicine.
People with normal immune systems typically fight off Vibrio, but those with weakened immune systems -- including the young and elderly -- can become seriously ill and die, Hotez said.
Health officials are warning residents to be alert, as higher temperatures could increase the growth of the potentially deadly bacteria.