The Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection (CHP) recorded a case of necrotizing fasciitis caused by Vibrio vulnificus affecting a 60-year-old woman with unremarkable past health on Feb. 25.

Vibrio vulnificus/CDC
Vibrio vulnificus/CDC

Health officials she presented with left leg swelling and pain on February 23 and was admitted to a public hospital on the same day. The clinical diagnosis was left leg necrotising fasciitis and septic shock. She was treated with antibiotics and required excisional debridement.

Her blood specimen and wound swab collected on February 23 both yielded Vibrio vulnificus. She was in a stable condition. She had been to wet market but could not recall any recent injuries.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium in the same family as those that cause cholera and Vibrio parahaemolyticus. It normally lives in warm seawater and is part of a group of vibrios that arecalled “halophilic” because they require salt.

V. vulnificus can cause disease in those who eat contaminated seafood or have an open wound that is exposed to seawater. Among healthy people, ingestion of V. vulnificus can cause vomiting,diarrhea, and abdominal pain. In immunocompromised persons, particularly those with chronic liver disease,V. vulnificus can infect the bloodstream, causing a severe and life-threatening illness characterized by fever and chills, decreased blood pressure (septic shock), and blistering skin lesions. V. vulnificus bloodstreaminfections are fatal about 50% of the time.

V. vulnificus can cause an infection of the skin when open wounds are exposed to warm seawater; theseinfections may lead to skin breakdown and ulceration. Persons who are immunocompromised are at higher risk for invasion of the organism into the bloodstream and potentially fatal complications.