Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that is found in all coastal waters of the United States. Most infections that happen are attributed to consuming raw oysters harvested in the Gulf of Mexico during the summer.

Vibrio vulnificus/CDC
Vibrio vulnificus/CDC

In addition to consuming raw oysters, wound infections are another problem with Vibrio vulnificus. These infections result either from contaminating an open wound with sea water harboring the organism, or by lacerating part of the body on coral, fish, etc., followed by contamination with the organism.

Hillsborough County, FL has seen the most cases of Vibriosis caused by the bacterium, Vibrio vulnificus in the Sunshine State so far in 2015 with five cases and three deaths, in fact since 2010, health officials report that the 5 cases reported thus far in 2015 is more than any other year since 2010 in the county.

Since 2010, health officials with Hillsborough County have reported 21 cases and they note that 90% were found to be acquired through wound/saltwater exposure.

Certain medical conditions (diabetes, liver disease like cirrhosis, leukemia, AIDS) can put you at risk for very rapid, serious and possibly deadly disease. Hillsborough County health officials report in Florida, the most commonly reported risk factors from 2008-2013 for developing disease were alcohol abuse, liver disease, heart disease, and diabetes . In Vibrio vulnificus cases reported in Hillsborough County since 2010, 86% were in individuals with underlying health conditions.

The take away from this data? Patients with chronic liver disease or immunocompromising conditions are particularly vulnerable to infection and are advised to avoid raw or undercooked seafood. Persons with open wounds should avoid contact with warm seawater.

In Florida, health officials have reported 37 cases and 12 fatalities as of Oct. 12.

Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today and the Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch

Follow @bactiman63