It’s called Vibrio vulnificus. A cousin of the bacterium that causes Cholera, it thrives in warm saltwater and is naturally found in many warm marine waters. The Florida Department of Health reports that 13 people contracted the bacteria this year, resulting in 3 fatalities. Last year, 41 people were infected and 11 died. If you’re sighing a breath of relief, hold it — Florida is NOT the only state to report Vibrio vulnificus infections. Many southern states, such as Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi also have recorded cases.
How do you get it?
An infection often occurs after eating raw seafood, especially raw or undercooked oysters. But be warned — this bacteria does not alter the appearance, taste, or odor of oysters. It can also enter your body through open wounds when swimming in water that is infected, or through a puncture wound from the spines of fish, such as tilapia or stingrays.
If you are unfortunate enough to contract Vibrio vulnificus, you can look forward to vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and blistering dermatitis. It is 80 times more likely to spread into the bloodstream of people with compromised immune systems, especially those with chronic liver disease. If this happens, dreadful symptoms include blistering skin lesions, septic shock and even death. It’s important to note that this severe infection may occur regardless of how you contracted it (food or open wound).
Vibrio vulnificus infections via open wound have a mortality rate of about 25%. In patients where the infection worsens into septicemia (typically following ingestion), the mortality rate rises to 50%. Most patients die within the first 48 hours of infection. While there are medications that can be administered, an optimal treatment is still unknown. Antibiotics are effective in the early stages of infection, but in advanced cases that include dermatitis, amputation may be necessary.
To increase the likelihood of survival, secondary infections from respiratory failure and acute renal failure are crucial to prevent. The key to treatment is an early identification, so if you are exhibiting any symptoms and have either eaten questionable raw seafood or swam in warm saltwater with open wounds, please seek immediate medical treatment.
Be Prepared. Know Before™.
The WeatherBug – Earth Networks Team