Florida Man Dies From Flesh-eating Bacteria Linked To Tainted Oyster

by Kim Boateng Posted on July 21st, 2018

Sarasota, Florida, USA: A 71-year-old man died from a flesh-eating bacteria that Florida Health Department officials say he contracted from eating a bad raw oyster at a Florida seafood restaurant. Health officials said the man died from Vibrio vulnificus two days after eating a raw oyster and coming down with a gastrointestinal illness.

The death comes on the heels of a warning earlier this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that 12 people throughout the nation contracted the Vibrio bacteria by eating fresh Venezuelan crab meat. None of those cases were fatal.

The name of the man who died, a Sarasota County, Florida, resident, was not released nor was the restaurant where he ate the bad oyster.

“The individual who died was exposed to Vibrio vulnificus through consuming a raw oyster,” the health department said in a statement to ABC News.

Officials said the man became gravely ill after eating the bad oyster on July 8 and that he died on July 10.

The department also confirmed that there were four other cases of Vibrio in the state in the past week, but none of those were fatal or in Sarasota County.

Health officials said the causes of the other cases of Vibrio are under investigation. Vibrio can also be contracted by swimming in warm saltwater with fresh cuts or scrapes.

Florida health officials said it was the first case and fatality involving the flesh-eating bacteria in Sarasota County this year. Nearby Manatee County has had one case of flesh-eating bacteria so far in 2018, but it was not deadly, officials said.

There were 11 deaths reported in Florida from Vibrio in 2017.

Meanwhile, the CDC said the Vibrio illnesses caused by the Venezuelan crab meat occurred in Maryland, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.

“CDC recommends that consumers not eat, restaurants not serve, and retailers [do] not sell precooked fresh crab meat imported from Venezuela until further notice,” the federal agency said in a statement. “This type of product may be labeled as fresh or precooked. It is commonly found in plastic containers. Food contaminated with Vibrio usually looks, smells, and tastes normal.

“If you buy crab meat and do not know whether it is from Venezuela, do not eat, serve, or sell it,” the agency said. “Throw it away.”

Vibrio vulnificus Infections and Disasters

If you are in an area where hurricanes, storm surges, and coastal flooding are possible, it’s important for you to know about a harmful bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus and steps you can take to reduce your risk of infection, CDC says.

What is Vibrio vulnificus?

Vibrio vulnificus is one of about a dozen species of Vibrio bacteria that can cause human illness, called vibriosis. Vibrio naturally live in certain coastal waters and are present in higher concentrations between May and October when water temperatures are warmer. Those months overlap with the time when hurricanes and tropical storms are more likely to affect the U.S. mainland and many U.S. territories.

Who is more likely to get a Vibrio vulnificus infection?

Anyone can get a Vibrio vulnificus infection. People with a compromised immune system or liver disease are more likely to get an infection and severe complications. Learn about other medical conditions that increase your chance of infection.

How do people get a Vibrio vulnificus infection?

In the United States, people most often become infected with Vibrio vulnificus and other species of Vibrio by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly oysters. Certain Vibrio species, including Vibrio vulnificus, can also cause a skin infection when an open wound is exposed to brackish or salt water. Brackish water is a mixture of fresh and sea water that is often found where rivers meet the sea.

When a hurricane or storm surge causes flooding, you may be exposed to coastal water. If you are in a group more likely to get a Vibrio vulnificus infection, it is especially important to take steps to reduce your risk of infection.

How can I protect myself from a Vibrio vulnificus infection during hurricanes and other natural disasters?

You can reduce your risk of infection by following these tips regarding wounds:

  • Stay out of brackish or salt water if possible if you have a wound. Cover your wound with a waterproof bandage if there’s a possibility it could come into contact with brackish or salt water, raw seafood, or raw seafood juices.
  • Wash wounds and cuts thoroughly with soap and water if they have been exposed to brackish or salt water, or raw seafood or its juices.
  • If you develop a skin infection, tell your medical provider if your skin has come into contact with brackish or salt water, raw seafood, or raw seafood juices.

What kinds of illnesses can a Vibrio vulnificus infection cause?

Vibrio vulnificus can cause two types of illnesses: 1) wound infections, which may start as redness and swelling at the site of the wound that can spread to affect much of the body, and 2) primary septicemia, a bloodstream infection with symptoms including fever, dangerously low blood pressure, and blistering skin lesions.

Are Vibrio vulnificus infections serious?

Yes. People with a Vibrio vulnificus infection can get seriously ill and need intensive care or limb amputation. About 1 in 7 people with a Vibrio vulnificus wound infection dies.

What are the symptoms of a Vibrio vulnificus infection and when do they usually start?

Symptoms of a Vibrio vulnificus infection include:

  • Serious illness, with a rapid decline in health;
  • Watery diarrhea, often accompanied by stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, and fever;
  • Skin infection after an open wound is exposed to brackish or salt water;
  • Bloodstream infection, with fever, chills, dangerously low blood pressure, blistering skin lesion, and sometimes death.

How is a Vibrio vulnificus infection diagnosed and treated?

Infection is diagnosed when Vibrio bacteria are found in the wound, blood, or stool (poop) of an ill person. Vibrio vulnificus infection is treated with antibiotics. Limb amputation is sometimes necessary to remove dead or infected tissue.

How many people get a Vibrio vulnificus infection in the United States each year?

CDC estimates that Vibrio vulnificus causes about 205 infections in the United States every year.

“Vibrio vulnificus does not cause cholera. Cholera is an epidemic waterborne diarrheal disease caused by another type of Vibrio; cholera rarely occurs in developed nations.” CDC says.

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Kim Boateng

Kim Boateng

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