April 19, 2024

Three North Carolina Vibrio Deaths; One From Seafood

Three North Carolina Vibrio deaths are linked to going into brackish water, but one patient also ate seafood harvested in those waters that was personally caught and not shared or commercially distributed. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS)  is urging caution. No links have been established between the cases or the areas where they were likely exposed to the pathogen.

Three North Carolina Vibrio Deaths; One From Seafood

The press release did not state whether the illnesses were from Vibrio vulnificus or from Vibrio parahaemolyticus, but the were probably the former. Vibrio vulnificus infections are more severe, and one out of five patients infected with that pathogen die.

Vibrio are bacteria that live in seawater or brackish water (which is mixed salt and fresh water). Anyone with open wounds, cuts, scratches, fresh tattoos, or piercings should avoid entering these waters until the wound is completely healed.

Since shellfish are filter feeders, they intake the bacteria when they feed. Then, if seafood is served raw or undercooked, the pathogen survives and causes illness.

Vibrio cases are rare in North Carolina. Since 2019, there have been 47 reported cases. Eight of those patients died.

Vibrio infections can be life threatening for people with weakened immune systems or chronic diseases. Stay out of seawater and estuaries if you have wounds. Do not eat raw oysters or other raw shellfish or seafood. When cooking seafood, make sure it is cooked to a final internal temperature of at least 145°F and that it stays at that temperature for 15 seconds to kill the bacteria.

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