The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a recent national health alert warning doctors and health care workers to be aware of infections from a flesh-eating bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, that has been found in multiple states this year.

The agency noted that an estimated 80,000 Vibrio bacteria illnesses each year are reported in the United States, including Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio alginolyticus. However, the deadliest one appears to be Vibrio vulnificus, which officials say can sometimes cause death within one or two days, although the CDC noted that only about 150 to 200 such infections are reported to the federal agency every year.

“People who are at increased risk for V. vulnificus infection should exercise caution when engaging in coastal water activities,” the CDC said on Sept. 1. “Prompt treatment is crucial to reduce mortality from severe V. vulnificus infection.”

While infections from the bacteria tend to be reported in the Gulf Coast, the CDC noted that infections have risen about eightfold between 1988 and 2018 in the eastern United States.

Vibrio bacteria generally live in salt water or brackish coastal waters, which is when sea water meets with fresh water. People can become infected after exposure to the organism, such as through an open wound, a cut, or a bite that has been in contact with infected water, undercooked or raw shellfish, or directly eating shellfish.

V. vulnificus wound infections have a short incubation period [the time between infection and when symptoms first show] and are characterized by necrotizing [tissue killing] skin and soft tissue infection,” the CDC also said. In some cases, people may also develop bleeding blisters. If left untreated, infection can spread throughout the body and cause blood poisoning.