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Health Dept. warns of seawater bacteria in Volusia, Flagler

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VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - Health Department officials in Volusia and Flagler counties are warning residents of a seawater bacteria that's been linked to nine deaths in Florida.

Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that normally lives in warm seawater and is in the same family as cholera. Officials are warning both beachgoers and individuals who handle raw shellfish.

Beachgoers with open wounds or broken skin should avoid swimming in warm salt water. Additionally, officials said people should wear gloves and wash their hands after handling raw shellfish.

There have been 26 cases of the bacteria, including nine deaths, across the state in 2013, officials said. Symptoms from the bacteria include diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Many beachgoers in Volusia County told WFTV they were unaware of the bacteria and its threat.

"I am actually really shocked. I'm in this water all the time and I guess I would have been more careful if I had known this earlier," Volusia County resident Kamryn Eversole said.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that 59-year-old Henry Konietzky of Palm Coast died Monday after he was exposed to the bacteria. He had been fishing for crabs in the Halifax River.