By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) has reported an increase in Vibrio vulnificus infections in the first eight months of 2020.

Image/Robert Herriman

To date, 37 cases have been reported, more than double the cases from the same period in 2019.

Epidemiological investigations of five patients who died from Vibrio vulnificus infection found that all of them were at high risk for the illness, with underlying conditions such as alcoholism, diabetes and liver disease, The Korea Times reports.

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.

“More attention should be paid to the prevention of Vibrio vulnificus especially during the late summer in September. It is more dangerous for people with underlying diseases, so it is necessary to detect the infection early through regular checkups and taking care of one’s health in the summer through improved living habits,” said KCDC chief Jeong Eun-kyeong in a statement.