Three additional confirmed Vibrio vulnificus cases were reported in the past week in the state of Florida, bringing the state total to 36 through Friday.

The new cases include the fourth case confirmed in a Atlantic Beach, Duval County resident, a second case out of Palm Beach County (Lake Worth) and Hillsborough County’s first case of the year (Valrico).

Vibrio vulnificus/CDC
Vibrio vulnificus/CDC

The V. vulnificus death toll remains unchanged at seven for the year.  Last year, Florida saw 45 cases and 14 deaths, the most since 2003.

Vibrio vulnificus and other Vibrio bacteria live in warm seawater. Vibrio bacteria can cause illness when an open wound is exposed to seawater, or when a person eats contaminated seafood.

Eating raw shellfish – especially oysters – contaminated with Vibrio may cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Individuals with compromised immune systems, particularly those with chronic liver disease, are also likely to develop a bloodstream infection with fever and chills, blistering skin lesions and possibly death.

The following precautions can be applied to reduce your risk of contracting V. vulnificus:

  • Don’t eat raw or undercooked oysters or other shellfish. Cook them before eating.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water after handing raw shellfish.
  • Avoid contaminating cooked shellfish with raw shellfish and its juices.
  • Stay out of brackish or salt water if you have a wound (including cuts and scrapes), or cover your wound with a waterproof bandage if there’s a possibility it could come into contact with brackish or salt water, raw seafood, or raw seafood juices.
  • Wash wounds and cuts thoroughly with soap and water if they have been exposed to seawater or raw seafood or its juices.
  • If you develop a skin infection, tell your medical provider if your skin has come into contact with brackish or salt water, raw seafood, or raw seafood juices.