Vibrio vulnificus and other Vibrio bacteria live in warm coastal waters. Vibrio bacteria can cause illness when an open wound is exposed to coastal waters, or when a person eats contaminated seafood.
Eating raw shellfish – especially oysters – contaminated with Vibrio may cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Individuals with compromised immune systems, particularly those with chronic liver disease, are also likely to develop a bloodstream infection with fever and chills, blistering skin lesions and possibly death.
Who is at Risk
Anyone can get sick from vibriosis, but you may be more likely to get an infection or severe complications if:
- You have liver disease, cancer, diabetes, HIV, or thalassemia
- You receive immune-suppressing therapy for the treatment of disease
- You take medicine to decrease stomach acid levels
- You have had recent stomach surgery
Precautions to Take
Reduce your risk of vibriosis by following these precautions:
- Don’t eat raw or undercooked oysters or other shellfish. Cook them before eating. Cooking tips »
- Always wash your hands with soap and water after handing raw shellfish. Proper handwashing »
- Avoid contaminating cooked shellfish with raw shellfish and its juices.
- Stay out of brackish or salt water if you have a wound (including cuts and scrapes), or 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 coastal waters 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.
If you are in a group at higher risk for severe infection
- Wear clothes and shoes that can protect you from cuts and scrapes when in brackish or salt water.
- Wear protective gloves when handling raw seafood.