V. vulnificus, otherwise known as Vibrio, is a dangerous , even deadly, bacteria. It can be consumed in seafood that is not heated appropriately, such as raw oysters of clams, and can be acquired topically through a break in the skin or recent wound. The short incubation period is followed by a horrific illness in which this flesh eating bacteria can take over a host and cause a painful death. If ingested, it often begins-with gastrointestinal pain accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, and fever, but can then go septic, causing the flesh eating bacteria to attach all different parts of the body. Topically acquired infections very often start with limb pain or soreness, and begin to spread quickly. Vibrio infections often lead to multiple or repeat amputations and eventually, in a matter of days to a week or so, death.
Vibrio is not new, but its prevalence off the coast of the eastern seaboard and presence in the Gulf of Mexico, is new. Higher water temperatures linked to global warming are the most likely culprit. Vibrio can live in salt water and brackish water, which I s a mix of fresh and salt water found near rivers and other tributaries.
As part of this recent phenomena, in recent months, the National Vibrio Food Poisoning Law Firm of Ron Simona & Associates has filed wrongful death lawsuits related to Vibrio consumption in raw oysters. Ron Simon stated: “the reality of it is that the oysters are more likely to contain the deadly bacteria now more than ever, and if not handled properly, the oysters become a vehicle for serious injury and death. We have seen several deaths related to consumption of raw oysters in the last two years. One is too many.”
Clearly the threat is real, and that is why the CDC is asking local authorities to put up signs warning would-be swimmers, and consumers of raw shellfish, to be particularly vigilant. Those with wounds or recent tattoos, or other broken skin, should either have waterproof bandages or not swim. Consumers of oysters do so at their own risk – especially when the handlers do not maintain proper storage.