A bacterial infection with the potential of high case-fatality rates, Vibrio vulnificus, has resulted in the deaths of 2 people in 2 months in Punta del Este, according to a El Pais report (computer translated). The 1st was an 84-year-old man at the beginning of December 2014, and the 2nd a 90-year-old Argentine in January 2015.


Rachel Rosa, Director of Epidemiology said in addition to the two fatalities, three other cases that recovered from their illness were reported during the same period.

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 bloodstream infections 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.