Hong Kong health officials report on a case of necrotizing fasciitis caused by Vibrio vulnificus affecting a 59-year-old woman with underlying illnesses recorded July 5. She presented with left leg pain, redness and fever on July 3 and was admitted to a public hospital on the same day.

Vibrio vulnificus/CDC
Vibrio vulnificus/CDC

Surgical debridement of wound was performed on the same day and the operative diagnosis was necrotizing fasciitis. She required postoperative intensive care. Her wound swab collected on July 3 yielded Vibrio vulnificus. She was treated with antibiotics and her condition was stable along. She was transferred back to general ward on July 6.

She had handled raw fish during food preparation and her left leg was injured by fish fins on July 2. Her home contact was asymptomatic.

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.