Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- It's a dangerous type of bacteria that lurks in the water.

Already, four people in the state have gotten sick. One has died, and the health department expects more. Some people are more at risk than others.

It's always been a health concern in southern Louisiana. Back in 1998, Reserve resident Adam Duhe' nearly lost his arm after fishing. He was one of a handful who got very sick from the bacteria Vibrio vulnificus.

'I woke up the next morning, I was freezing. I had to put a blanket on. The next morning, I woke up my hand was real, real big,' Duhe' said from his hospital bed in 1998.

On Tuesday the Health Department is reminding us who is at risk for serious illness from this bacteria. Four people from the New Orleans, Houma, Baton Rouge and Lake Charles areas have been sickened. One did not live.

'There is no advisory because it is everywhere. It's evenly distributed,' explained Dr. Raoult Ratard, the Louisiana state epidemiologist.

Ratard said one of the people who got ill stepped out of his boat and cut his foot on oysters. Another already had a cut on his foot when he got in the water and another cut his finger on a fishing hook.

The doctors say this type of bacteria is not a result of any spills or environmental problems. It's naturally occurring. What happens is when the weather gets hotter so does the water causing the bacteria to multiply.

Vibrio vulnificus lives in salt or brackish water. It can get in a cut or you can ingest it eating raw oysters or undercooked shell fish. Healthy people don't need to worry so much. It's people with low immune systems who do.

'Those people can get really serious wound infections. And wound infections that can go through the skin, to the muscle and can even get into the blood stream. And some can even result in death, as one of these cases has resulted,' said Dr. Fred Lopez, an infectious diseases specialist at LSU Health Sciences Center.

But doctors say even healthy water lovers should use common sense.

'Whether your immune system is working or not working, if you have an open wound, avoid water. Contaminated water can cause all kinds of problems,' Dr. Lopez cautioned.

Here's who should be concerned:

People with diabetes, cancer, alcoholism, liver disease, such as chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis, AIDS patients, transplant recipients and those taking cortisone.

From Wikipedia: 'Vibrio vulnificus infections also disproportionately affect males; 85% of those who develop endotoxic shock from the bacteria are male. Females who have had an oophorectomy experienced increased mortality rates, as estrogen has been shown experimentally to have a protective effect against V. vulnificus'

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