During the past eight years, Florida has seen an average of just under ten fatalities annually due to infection with the bacterium, Vibrio vulnificus, and in 2016, the Florida Department of Health reported 10 deaths.
Breakdown by county is as follows: Santa Rosa (2) and one each in Broward, Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Putnam and Sarasota counties. Health department data doesn’t distinguish between foodborne and wound infection cases.
Health officials saw 46 cases in 2016, which is the highest number of cases reported in the past eight years. Duval County reported the most cases at 4.
Vibrio vulnificus can cause disease in those who eat contaminated seafood or have an open wound that is exposed to warm seawater containing the bacteria. Ingestion of Vibrio vulnificus can cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Vibrio vulnificus can also cause an infection of the skin when open wounds are exposed to warm seawater; these infections may lead to skin breakdown and ulcers.
Healthy individuals typically develop a mild disease; however, Vibrio vulnificus infections can be a serious concern for people who have weakened immune systems, particularly those with chronic liver disease.
The bacterium can invade the bloodstream, causing a severe and life-threatening illness with symptoms like fever, chills, decreased blood pressure (septic shock) and blistering skin lesions. Vibrio vulnificus bloodstream infections are fatal about 50 percent of the time. A recent study showed that people with these pre-existing medical conditions were 80 times more likely to develop Vibrio vulnificus bloodstream infections than healthy people.