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Share top top PinterestVery couple of people in reality contract an epidemic from the danger Vibrio vulnificus bacteria. Getty photos
Only around 205 civilization in the United claims will obtain an epidemic from Vibrio vulnificus — likewise called the “flesh-eating bacteria” — this year. People with specific underlying problems may be much more prone come contracting the infection.

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The bacteria can additionally cause symptoms as soon as ingested, such as with raw oysters. This summer millions of world will head come the beaches to enjoy some time ~ above the coast.

However, yes sir a looming issue of flesh-eating bacteria in the waters.

Headline ~ headline has touted civilization suffering indigenous an infection caused by bacteria described in graphic terms as “flesh eating.”

For those that love warmth water, the headlines may carry up fears that the local lake or s beach no safe. However experts say that’s no the instance for the vast bulk of people.

Here’s what to know:


What is the infection?

Multiple species of Vibrio bacteria can cause tens of countless infections in the United states every year.

But it’s Vibrio vulnificus, among a dozen types of this Vibrio bacteria, that has actually been do headlines this summer. It’s found in the coastal waters follow to the Centers for disease Control and also Prevention (CDC).

There are greater concentrations of the bacteria during the warmer months as heat water temperature — higher than 68°F — allow the varieties to thrive.

Most commonly, people come to be infected through the bacteria by eating raw and also undercooked shellfish, specifically oysters. Rather encounter the bacteria through open up wounds while swim in infected waters.

In rarely cases, the Vibrio infection can reason necrotizing fasciitis. This is a soft tissue infection that progresses to the muscles and organs causing rapid destruction of tissues. However, if caught early, this infection deserve to be timeless treated through antibiotics.

Although you can uncover Vibrio vulnificus in all seaside waters that the united States, it’s usually discovered in the warmer waters in the Southeast regions of the unified States and the Gulf the Mexico.

While the bacteria has actually been do headlines across the united States, the CDC approximates that Vibrio vulnificus causes only around 205 epidemic in the United says each year.

“People space concerned because this is a an extremely dramatic infection. The affects civilization of all eras — you have the right to be healthy and get the infection. In spite of this, the is rare,” said Dr. William Schaffner, one infectious disease specialist in ~ Vanderbilt University medical Center.


If ingested, usually v eating life or undercooked oysters, the symptoms of diarrhea, cramping, fever, chills, and also vomiting usually appear within 24 hours. The symptoms normally last just 3 days.

If Vibrio vulnificus is exposed to open up wounds, that can cause a decision that alters skin color. There’s additionally bruising and also localized swelling, and it deserve to be painful to the touch.

Although anyone is vulnerable to a vibrio illness, those with the following problems are specifically vulnerable:

liver diseasealcohol use disorderdiabetescancer or malignancykidney disease

“Although anyone could be infected v an open up wound, patients through cirrhosis or other immune compromising problems are specifically vulnerable,” said Dr. Christopher Greene, an assistant professor of Emergency medicine at the university of Alabama at Birmingham.


In a newly published study in the Annals of inner Medicine, researchers found that in between 2008 and 2016 there was only one instance of Vibrio vulnificus epidemic reported in ~ a hospital in the Delaware bay region, where the water is often colder than ideal for the bacteria.

However, the study authors uncovered that after additional investigation, there to be at least five instances in the same Delaware bay region, just between 2017 and 2018.

In all 5 cases, the patients were men between the ages of 38 and 64 who presented come the hospital through necrotizing fasciitis after maritime life exposure in ~ work and through consumption.

All the the men involved had preexisting conditions. Two had actually hepatitis, two had actually previous injuries when crabbing, and also another had actually diabetes — all points that placed you at greater risk for epidemic from Vibrio vulnificus.

While risk components do boost your opportunities of contracting Vibrio vulnificus, the authors attribute the increase in cases in the Delaware Bay partly to climate change.


Despite the news headlines, you can still gain the beach, oysters, and also the coastal waters. However, a few safety tips can decrease the opportunity of friend contracting the illness.

The CDC supplies the following tips to reduce your risk of vibriosis:

Don’t eat raw or undercooked oysters.Always wash her hands v antimicrobial soap after dealing with raw oysters.After food preparation seafood, properly refrigerate leftovers to avoid warming.Avoid salt and also brackish waters if you have actually an open up wound including simple scrapes and open cuts. If you’re going to go into the water, usage a waterproof bandage to protect against wound contamination.If the wound does obtain exposed to potentially infected waters, wash all wounds with antimicrobial soap and clean water. If the wound becomes red or shows up infected, seek instant medical care.

“People have to avoid swim in any form of water with open up wounds, and also wear protective clothing including footwear to protect from injuries and also abrasions,” Greene said znjke.com.

Although everybody should be cautious of the risk factors for contracting vibriosis, those with conditions that placed them in ~ a greater risk should be specifically careful.


If girlfriend or someone you know have actually recently to be exposed to life or undercooked oysters and started to experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and the characteristics rash, you must seek instant medical attention.

Although at an early stage symptoms that vibriosis from Vibrio vulnificus have the right to be cure with dental antibiotics and also antiemetics, more severe situations may need hospitalization, IV antibiotics, and also if wounds space present, operation evaluations.

“Any wound have to be tenderness cleansed v soap and water,” claimed Greene. “Signs that infection encompass redness (erythema) the spreads from the wound edge, serious pain in the wound, visible ede in the tissues bordering the wound, or fever/chills” which have to prompt a visit come your regional emergency department.

Those who may need much more intensive treatment are those with worsening symptoms.

Vibriosis is a condition that have the right to be complicated to spot. It wake up underneath the skin. So, if yes pain v gentle touch that’s beyond what you would certainly expect just by looking in ~ the skin’s surface, you may be enduring the later symptoms that this illness.

Early medical intervention have the right to promote favorable outcomes and can protect against surgical procedures and also the so late life-threatening manifestations the the illness.

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Schaffner believes the everyone “should walk out and also enjoy themselves this summer. Walk swimming, boating, and also eat carefully. If we are all a tiny bit wise with understanding this infection, we will certainly all do simply fine.”

Rajiv Bahl, MD, MBA, MS, is one emergency medication physician and also health writer. Learn much more about him at his website.