Florida health officials reported Friday on the fifth fatality due to the bacterium, Vibrio vulnificus, in a resident of Sarasota County. It is not reported on how the individual contracted the infection.

Other fatalities have been reported in Broward, Citrus, Palm Beach and Santa Rosa counties earlier in the year.


The total number of cases reported through Aug 12 is twenty-one with additional cases reported in Duval, Nassau and Sarasota counties.

People can get infected with Vibrio vulnificus when they eat raw shellfish, particularly oysters. The bacterium is frequently isolated from oysters and other shellfish in warm coastal waters during the summer months. Since it is naturally found in warm marine waters, people with open wounds can be exposed to Vibrio vulnificus through direct contact with seawater.

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. Wound infections may also be serious in people with weakened immune systems. The wound may heal poorly and require surgery. Sometimes amputation may even be needed for recovery.