Information About Vibrio Vulnificus Bacteria from Christine Mann, Press Officer for the Texas Department of State Health Services

Posted Aug 6, 2015 - While Vibrio vulnificus bacterial infections, by all accounts, are rare, it is important to understand transmission and recognize the symptoms of an infection (see information below). Many times Vibrio vulnificus (not to be confused with the many other types of Vibrio bacteria) illnesses are associated with consumption or handling of shellfish. Contracting an infection can also occur from exposing open wounds to coastal waters (or cutting oneself while in coastal waters).

During a phone conversation with Christine Mann, Press Officer for the Texas Department of State Health Services (on July 24, 2015), she confirmed that the Vibrio vulnificus bacteria "...exists naturally, occurring in warm coastal water." She went on to say that 84 cases were reported in Texas in 2013. Mann also explained that reporting is done by residence of the individual. Her example, (paraphrased): If someone contracted an infection from swimming in South Padre waters, but was from Rockport, the case would be reported as Rockport. When questioned about a possible correlation between the recent flooding in Rockport to Vibrio vulnificus infection cases, she did not think that the flooding would result in a rise of infection cases.

As far as the data she could access, she told the WWN that only 1 case of Vibrio vulnificus had been reported in Aransas County so far in 2015. She admitted that this data was not as current as the last 24 hours, and suggested we contact the local health department. From her suggestion, we reached out to the Environmental Health Department for Aransas County, but was told by the Director (over the phone) that he did not have access to that information.

(The above paragraphs were written by WWN staff.)

Information About Vibrio Vulnificus Bacteria, from the Texas Department of State Health Services:

Vibrio vulnificus
Vibrio vulnificus, a halophilic (salt-requiring) bacterium, exist naturally in marine and estuarine environments throughout the world, including the warm coastal waters and some inland brackish lakes of the United States and Canada. The bacteria are capable of infecting marine fish and shellfish, especially oysters harvested from coastal areas.
Transmission occurs through the consumption of raw, undercooked or contaminated shellfish, especially oysters; or wound related, due to the exposure of a new or pre-existing wound to marine, estuarine and brackish waters.
Persons with underlying medical conditions, especially liver disease, may be at increased risk of infection and serious complications. A higher risk of transmission has been linked to the warmer months of the year.
Illness onset can occur between 16 hours to 7 days after the consumption of contaminated food or exposure of a wound to contaminated water.
Wound infection symptoms include:
  • Blistering and ulceration
  • Swelling and reddening
  • Fluid build-up
  • Fever
  • Sepsis and shock
Symptoms of severe bloodstream infection in susceptible individuals can occur rapidly after ingestion and include:
  • Sudden chills and fever
  • Shock
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Skin lesions on the limbs and trunk of the body
The risk of severe complications and death in susceptible individuals who succumb to primary septicemia is high (50% mortality). 
Gastrointestinal symptoms include:
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
General recommendations for avoiding Vibrio vulnificus­ gastrointestinal illness and severe infection in susceptible individuals:
    • Implement refrigeration of seafood from harvesting/purchase to consumption.
    • Avoid the consumption of raw seafood, especially oysters, if:
    • They have come from coastal waters during the warmer months of the year
    • You have a weakened immune system, liver disease/condition or an iron-related disorder
    • When preparing oysters, mussels or other molluscan shellfish –
    • Before cooking, discard any opened shells
    • Boil, broil or fry (at 375°F) for at least 3-5 minutes
    • Bake at 450°F for 10 minutes
    • As a rule – discard any unopened shells after cooking
    • Only eat seafood or shellfish that is thoroughly cooked until steaming hot.
    • Eat shellfish immediately after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.
    • Avoid cross contaminating raw juices from seafood with other foods, and immediately cleanup any spills with hot water and soap and clean rinsing water.
    • Keep raw seafood separate from other food.
  • Thoroughly wash hands, utensils and surfaces after preparing or handling raw seafood.
General recommendations for avoiding wound infections:
  • Do not handle raw seafood of any kind if you have a pre-existing wound.
  • Wear protective clothing (ie. Gloves) when handling raw seafood.
  • Avoid marine, estuarine or brackish (sea/ocean) water if you have a pre-existing wound.
  • If you sustain a wound or injury while exposed to salty seawater or while handling seafood, thoroughly clean and disinfect the area immediately and seek medical attention if the area becomes inflamed.  
HAI Logo(11)Recent Texas Trends

The annual number of cases of Vibrio vulnificus­ infection over the last decade in Texas range in number from 15 to 30. The majority of primary septicemia cases of Vibrio vulnificus­ infection have been linked to the consumption of shellfish, mainly oysters. Infections also appear to be seasonal in nature, with most occurring between May and October.


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