May 29, 2024

How Do You Know If You Have a Vibrio Vulnificus Infection?

How do you know if you have a Vibrio vulnificus infection? This illness, which has a 33% mortality rate, can be very serious. The  bacteria is carried by raw seafood, especially oysters. Vibrio vulnificus can cause food poisoning, and it can also sometimes cause necrotizing fasciitis, otherwise known as an infection of “flesh-eating bacteria.”

How Do You Know If You Have a Vibrio Vulnificus Infection?

There are several Vibrio serotypes that cause human illness. Vibrio vulnificus causes the most serious, and vibrio parahaemolyticus also causes illness, although it is generally less serious. Vibrio vulnificus is the leading cause of death linked to seafood consumption in the United States. It is commonly found in the Gulf of Mexico, in higher concentrations in the summer.

This pathogen lives in warm seawater, especially water that is warmer than 68°F. It is not associated with pollution. It does not affect the taste, appearance, texture, or odor of seafood. Although rare, the incidence of this type of infection is increasing and is underreported.

After eating shellfish contaminated with this pathogen, symptoms appear 12 to 72 hours later, although sometimes illness onset is delayed for a week. The most serious complication is septicemia, a blood infection that is the body’s most serious response to a pathogen.

Symptom onset is abrupt, and include fever, chills, skin blisters, and a drop in blood pressure. Gastrointestinal symptoms are not as common, although some people can experience nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Risk factors for serious  complications from this infection include a chronic illness, liver or kidney disease, alcoholism, and diabetes.

To reduce your risk of contracting this illness, do not eat raw shellfish. Cook oysters, clams, and mussels thoroughly before consuming. Boil until the shells open, then continue boiling for five minutes. If you steam the bivalves, steam until they open and then steam for nine minutes longer. And avoid cross-contamination between raw seafood and other foods.


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