Vibrio vulnificus is a reportable disease in Oklahoma. Vibrio vulnificus is a natural inhabitant of warm coastal waters. Vibrio vulnificus is an opportunistic pathogen that is found in estuarine environments and associated with various marine species such as plankton, shellfish (oysters, clams, and crabs), and finfish. The illness is very different from cholera, which is caused by different species of Vibrio, called Vibrio cholerae.
V. vulnificus is found in oysters and other shellfish in warm coastal waters during the summer months. Infection may occur by eating raw or undercooked seafood harvested from contaminated waters. Since it is naturally found in warm marine waters, people with open wounds can be exposed to V. vulnificus through direct contact with seawater, shellfish, and marine wildlife. There is no evidence for person-to-person transmission of V. vulnificus.
Symptoms caused by Vibrio vulnificus include fever, chills, swelling and redness of the skin on arms or legs with development of blood-tinged blisters, low blood pressure and shock. If exposed by contamination of an open wound, increasing swelling, redness, and pain will occur at the site of the wound. Illness typically begins within one to three days of exposure, but begins as late as seven days after exposure.
About three-quarters of patients with Vibrio vulnificus infections have an underlying immunocompromising illness. These conditions include liver disease of any type, hemochromatosis, diabetes, stomach problems (including antacid use), cancer, immune disorders (including HIV infection), and long-term steroid use. Otherwise healthy persons are at much lower risk of Vibrio vulnificus infection.
How to prevent exposure to Vibrio vulnificus:
- Avoid eating raw oysters or other raw shellfish.
- For shellfish in the shell, boil until the shells open and continue boiling for 5 more minutes, or steam until the shells open and then continue cooking for 9 more minutes.
- Avoid eating shellfish that do not open during cooking.
- Boil shucked oysters at least 3 minutes, or fry them in oil at least 10 minutes at 375°F.
- Eat shellfish promptly after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.
- Wear protective clothing (e.g., gloves) when handling raw shellfish.
External Vibrio vulnificus Resources:
Vibrio vulnificus (CDC)