A 71-year-old Sarasota man with underlying health conditions died recently after consuming raw oysters in a local restaurant. The oysters were contaminated with the serious bacterium, Vibrio vulnificus.


He is the third V. vulnificus fatality in Florida this year–other deaths were reported in Hillsborough and Jackson counties. Sixteen total cases have been reported statewide from 14 counties.

In 2017, Florida reported 49 cases and 11 deaths, the most cases reported in one year in a decade.

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.