As summer arrives and the waters get warmer, The Florida Department of Health is urging Floridians with certain health conditions to avoid eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to seawater and estuarine water, which may harbor bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus.
Health officials have already reported six cases this year; four due to the infection of an open wound and two from consuming raw shellfish.
Persons who have wounds, cuts or scratches and wade in estuarine areas or seawater where the bacteria might be present can become ill. Symptoms of Vibrio vulnificus in wound infections typically include swelling, pain and redness at the wound site.
Other symptoms of Vibrio vulnificus infection include; nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, chills, and the formation of blistering skin lesions. Individuals experiencing these symptoms should contact a physician immediately for diagnosis and treatment.
Individuals with liver disease, including Hepatitis C and cirrhosis, are most at risk for developing serious illness from Vibrio vulnificus obtained from eating raw oysters. Others who should avoid consuming raw shellfish are those with hemochromatosis (iron overload), diabetes, cancer, stomach disorders or any illness or treatment that weakens the immune system. Thoroughly cooking oysters, either by frying, stewing, or roasting eliminates harmful bacteria and viruses in the meat. Consuming raw oysters that have undergone a post-harvest treatment process to eliminate the bacteria can also reduce the risk of illness.
Florida reported 41 cases of Vibrio vulnificus infection in 2013. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page