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Share ~ above PinterestVery few people in reality contract an epidemic from the dangerous Vibrio vulnificus bacteria. Getty photos
Only around 205 world in the United says will acquire an infection from Vibrio vulnificus — likewise called the “flesh-eating bacteria” — this year. People with particular underlying conditions may be an ext prone come contracting the infection.

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The bacteria can also cause symptoms when ingested, together as with raw oysters. This summer millions of people will head to the beaches to gain some time top top the coast.

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

Headline after ~ headline has actually touted human being suffering from an infection resulted in by bacteria defined in graphic terms together “flesh eating.”

For those that love warm water, the headlines may bring up fears that the neighborhood lake or s beach isn’t safe. Yet experts say that’s not the situation for the vast majority of people.

Here’s what to know:


What is the infection?

Multiple types of Vibrio bacteria can reason tens of thousands of infections in the United states every year.

But it’s Vibrio vulnificus, among a dozen species of this Vibrio bacteria, that has actually been make headlines this summer. It’s found in the seaside waters according to the Centers for condition Control and also Prevention (CDC).

There are greater concentrations the the bacteria throughout the warmer months as warm water temperature — better than 68°F — allow the varieties to thrive.

Most commonly, people become infected v the bacteria by eat raw and also undercooked shellfish, specifically oysters. Others encounter the bacteria through open wounds while swim in infected waters.

In rare cases, the Vibrio epidemic can cause necrotizing fasciitis. This is a soft organization infection the progresses come the muscles and also organs bring about rapid destruction of tissues. However, if captured early, this infection deserve to be timeless treated through antibiotics.

Although you can discover Vibrio vulnificus in all coastal waters of the joined States, that usually found in the warmer waters in the Southeast areas of the united States and also the Gulf the Mexico.

While the bacteria has actually been do headlines throughout the united States, the CDC approximates that Vibrio vulnificus reasons only around 205 infections in the United claims each year.

“People space concerned because this is a really dramatic infection. It affects human being of all periods — you deserve to be healthy and get the infection. In spite of this, the is rare,” said Dr. William Schaffner, one infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University clinical Center.


If ingested, usually with eating life or undercooked oysters, the symptom of diarrhea, cramping, fever, chills, and also vomiting usually show up within 24 hours. The symptoms normally last only 3 days.

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

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

liver diseasealcohol usage disorderdiabetescancer or malignancykidney disease

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


In a recently published examine in the Annals of internal Medicine, researchers discovered that in between 2008 and 2016 there was only one situation of Vibrio vulnificus infection reported in ~ a hospital in the Delaware bay region, wherein the water is often cooler than ideal for the bacteria.

However, the research authors uncovered that after additional investigation, there were at the very least five situations in the very same Delaware bay region, just in between 2017 and 2018.

In all 5 cases, the patients to be men between the eras of 38 and 64 who presented come the hospital with necrotizing fasciitis after naval life exposure at work and through consumption.

All the the men connected had preexisting conditions. Two had hepatitis, two had previous injuries while crabbing, and also another had diabetes — all points that put you at higher risk for epidemic from Vibrio vulnificus.

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


Despite the news headlines, you can still gain the beach, oysters, and the seaside waters. However, a few safety tips have the right to decrease the opportunity of girlfriend contracting the illness.

The CDC supplies the complying with tips to alleviate your danger of vibriosis:

Don’t eat raw or undercooked oysters.Always wash her hands v antimicrobial soap after handling raw oysters.After cooking seafood, correctly refrigerate leftovers to stop warming.Avoid salt and brackish waters if you have actually an open wound including simple scrapes and also open cuts. If you’re walk to enter the water, use a waterproof bandage to avoid wound contamination.If the wound does get exposed to possibly infected waters, to wash all wounds through antimicrobial soap and also clean water. If the wound becomes red or appears infected, seek instant medical care.

“People must avoid swimming in any form of water with open up wounds, and also wear protective clothes including footwear to defend from injuries and also abrasions,” Greene said lasignoralaura.com.

Although everybody must be mindful of the risk components for contracting vibriosis, those with problems that put them at a greater risk must be especially careful.


If girlfriend or someone you know have actually recently been exposed to life or undercooked oysters and also started to suffer nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and the properties rash, you must seek prompt medical attention.

Although early symptoms the vibriosis from Vibrio vulnificus deserve to be treated with oral antibiotics and antiemetics, more severe cases may need hospitalization, IV antibiotics, and if wounds are present, surgical evaluations.

“Any wound need to be tenderness cleansed through soap and also water,” stated Greene. “Signs that infection encompass redness (erythema) the spreads from the wound edge, severe pain in the wound, visible swelling in the tissues neighboring the wound, or fever/chills” which must prompt a visit to your local emergency department.

Those who might need more intensive treatment room those v worsening symptoms.

Vibriosis is a condition that deserve to be difficult to spot. It wake up underneath the skin. So, if yes sir pain v gentle touch that’s past what you would expect simply by looking at the skin’s surface, you might be experiencing the later symptoms the this illness.

Early medical intervention can promote favorable outcomes and also can avoid surgical procedures and also the late life-threatening manifestations that the illness.

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

Rajiv Bahl, MD, MBA, MS, is an emergency medication physician and health writer. Learn much more about him in ~ his website.