Attorney Fred Pritzker recently won a wrongful death lawsuit for a family whose loved one died of Vibrio vulnificus after eating raw oysters at an oyster bar in Florida.
What is Vibrio Vulnificus Food Poisoning?
Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium in the same family as those that cause cholera. It normally lives in warm seawater where it can contaminate seafood, including mussels, clams, scallops and oysters. Oysters are especially likely to contain this bacterium. Vibrio vulnificus does not change the taste or smell of oysters and other seafood, so you can’t tell whether or not Vibrio vulnificus is present in raw seafood.
Symptoms of V. vulnificus infection (vibriosis) include vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. If the bacteria infects the bloodstream, it causes septicemia, a severe and life-threatening illness characterized by fever, chills, nausea, decreased blood pressure (septic shock), and blistering skin lesions. Vibrio vulnificus bloodstream infections are fatal about 60% of the time. Generally, only people with compromised immune systems, especially those with chronic liver disease, develop septicemia from Vibrio vulnificus. Symptoms of septicemia typically develop within 24 hours of ingesting contaminated raw or undercooked seafood.
Before 2007, there was no national surveillance system for this bacterium, but CDC collaborated with the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi to monitor the number of cases of Vibrio food poisoning in the Gulf Coast region. In 2007, infections caused by this and other Vibrio species became nationally notifiable. These infections are referred to as vibriosis.
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1. CDC, http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/vibriov/
2. Linkous, D. A. and Oliver, J. D. (1999), Pathogenesis of Vibrio vulnificus. FEMS Microbiology Letters, 174: 207–214. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6968.1999.tb13570.x