Five people in the last two years have been admitted to the same New Jersey hospital for treatment of the same flesh-eating bacterial infection, Vibrio vulnificus, tied to the Delaware Bay — and now scientists say it’s maybe, or maybe not, but very possibly maybe, definitely likely maybe, due to climate change.
Climate change can eat your flesh.
That’s what the alarmism crowds are pushing now?
It’s such a red flag, it’s become the headlines of news outlets everywhere.
“Flesh-eating bacteria in New Jersey reveal one possible effect of climate change, study says,” CNN wrote.
The story’s dramatic opener: “Climate change may lead to unlikely illnesses in unexpected places, new research suggests,” reported CNN.
The research that suggests such comes from a piece in the Annals of Internal Medicine that found temperature changes in U.S. waters — “significant increases in sea surface temperatures,” that is — have led to changes in the “distribution and seasonal windows of bacteria,” and to “more favorable conditions for Vibrio,” according to co-author Katherine Doktor, an infectious disease doctor at Cooper University Health Care.
This is hardly the stuff of sound science.
And yet, the headlines are twittering.
“Flesh-eating bacteria spreading in US due to warmer ocean water,” Business Insider wrote.
“‘Flesh-Eating’ Bacteria May Be Spreading to Beaches Once Thought Off-Limits. Here’s Why,” Live Science wrote, in a headline above a story that opened with this: “‘Flesh-eating’ bacteria that live in the ocean may be spreading to previously unaffected beach waters thanks to climate change, according to a new report.”
And then this, from NBC: “Is climate change to blame for a rise in ‘flesh-eating’ bacteria cases? Doctors say yes.”
Doctors say yes? No doubt, if doctors say yes, then their nurses do, too. Quite possibly the people who bring the food trays to patients, as well. And nothing says sound science like a doctor-nurse-food-tray-deliverer report. Right?
Here’s one cooler head saying otherwise.
“It’s suggestive, right? [But it’s] hard to say this is all due to climate change — although it very well could be,” said Stephen Spann, the dean of the University of Houston College of Medicine, in CNN.
It also could be salinity levels, he said.
“As salinity or salt content in these waters drops,” Spann said, “the concentration of the Vibrio goes up.”
It also could be other polluting factors that affect the level of bacteria in the water, he said.
It also could be the health of the swimmer.
“In all five cases we’ve seen [in New Jersey in the last two years], the patients have had known risk factors (liver disease, diabetes, or other immune compromise) when a break in the skin was exposed to water and/or [when the patient] consumed uncooked shellfish harvested from the Delaware Bay,” Doktor herself wrote, CNN reported. Farther down in the story, of course. After the part about climate change being to blame.
Hmm. Imagine that.
Individuals with serious health problems and compromised immune systems and, coincidentally, open wounds on their skin, are getting ill when they swim. Who’d have thought.
It’s as good a theory to go on as climate change, anyway.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley.
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