vibrio vulnificus
Vibrio Vulnificus up close. Wikipedia/CDC

Even if the growing conditions for the Gulf of Mexico’s so-called “flesh-eating bacteria” are more welcoming, the risk of infection isn’t necessarily higher.

vibrio vulnificus (which causes the body to self-destroy, rather than consume the tissue itself) lives in the Gulf’s mixture of fresh and salty water, at warm temperatures. And it always has. Vice reports that, while it may have enjoyed a more comfortable living arrangement, thanks to tar balls a few years ago, the disease has always lived in the area.

The disease is most likely to affect people with immune deficiencies (open wounds, kidney diseases, things like that).

No one’s sure why there have been more cases reported recently, but the answer could simply be that doctors are better at identifying the infection (not an uncommon explanation for increased numbers).

Read more at Vice.