The Florida Department of Health is warning shellfish lovers and beachgoers about a Vibrio outbreak in that state. Vibrio is a flesh-eating bacteria that has infected seven people so far. Two people have died of their infections. People can develop this infection when they eat raw shellfish or if they swim in contaminated seawater with open wounds.
The symptoms of a Vibrio infection include abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. A vibrio infection of the skin leads to ulcers and skin breakdown. Anyone with a weakened immune system can have serious complications with this type of infection. If the bacteria gets into the bloodstream, fever, chills, septic shock, and death can occur.
There were only 32 cases of Vibrio reported in Florida all of last year. Most infections occur between May and October. Vibrio is a rare cause of human disease, but it is underreported.
Do not eat raw seafood harvested from Florida waters to avoid infection. Properly and thoroughly cook seafood before eating. For shellfish in the shell, boil until the shells open and continue boiling for 5 minutes longer; or steam until the shells open and steam for another 9 minutes. Boil shucked oysters at least 3 minutes, or fry them in oil at least 10 minutes at 375°F. Do not eat shellfish that do not open during cooking. Avoid cross-contamination between raw seafood and other foods. Wear protective clothing, such as gloves, when handling raw shellfish. If you have open cuts or scrapes, do not go into the water.
You can see the cases of Vibrio reported by county at the Florida Department of Health web site. One death was reported in Brevard county, and one death was reported in Marion county so far this year. Cases have been reported in Broward county (2), Duval county (1), Pasco county (1), Santa Rosa county (1), and St. Lucie county (1).