is caused by Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium that lives
in warm seawater. The condition is rare.
Vibrio vulnificus food
poisoning occurs when you eat seafood infected with the bacteria or you have an
open wound that is exposed to them. The bacteria are frequently found in
oysters and other shellfish in warm coastal waters during the summer months.
People who have
weak immune systems, especially those with long-term
(chronic) liver disease, are at greater risk for this condition than
In healthy people,
Vibrio vulnificus food poisoning can cause vomiting,
diarrhea, and abdominal (belly) pain. In people who have weak immune systems, the
bacteria can infect the bloodstream, causing a severe and life-threatening
illness. Symptoms include fever and chills, decreased blood pressure (septic
shock), and blistering skin wounds. The infection is especially dangerous to
people who have long-term (chronic) liver disease.
If an open wound is
exposed to the bacteria (such as from warm seawater), sores may develop. People with weak immune systems are at risk
for the bacteria moving into the bloodstream.
Vibrio vulnificus food
poisoning is diagnosed based on a medical history and a physical exam. Your
doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms, foods you have
recently eaten, and your work and home environments. If you have eaten raw
seafood, especially oysters, your doctor may do a stool, wound, or
You treat Vibrio vulnificus food poisoning by managing complications until it passes.
Dehydration caused by diarrhea and vomiting is the
most common complication. In people who have weak immune systems, or in people who have
severe symptoms, antibiotics may be used.
To prevent dehydration, take
frequent sips of a rehydration drink (such as Pedialyte). Try to drink a cup of water or rehydration drink for each large,
loose stool you have. Soda
and fruit juices have too much sugar and not enough of the important
electrolytes that are lost during diarrhea, and they
should not be used to rehydrate.
Try to stay with your normal diet
as much as possible. Eating your usual diet will help you to get enough
nutrition. Doctors believe that eating a normal diet will also help you feel
better faster. But try to avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar. Also
avoid spicy foods, alcohol, and coffee for 2 days after all symptoms have
The best way to prevent this type of food poisoning is
to not eat raw oysters or other raw shellfish and to cook all shellfish
(oysters, clams, mussels) thoroughly.
Boil shucked oysters for at
least 3 minutes or fry them in oil for at least 10 minutes at
375°F (191°C). For shellfish in
the shell, either:
Do not eat those shellfish that do not open during
You should also:
October 18, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
& W. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease
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