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Vibriosis is triggered by bacterial infection from the Vibrio genus, typically Vibrio parahemolyticus or Vibrio vulnificus. Diarrhea often accompanies Vibrio bacteria along with more serious skin infections, and blood infections. Vibrio parahemolyticus is a mostly harmless infection that commonly causes diarrhea, however the Vibrio vulnificus infection, while rare, may contribute to blood poisoning and fatality on many occasions.

What is Vibriosis?

Vibriosis refers to infection by a member of the Vibrio class of bacteria. The bacteria which leads to cholera is part of this class. Alternative names are non-cholera Vibrio infection, Vibrio parahemolyticus infection, and Vibrio vulnificus infection.

Vibrio parahemolyticus and Vibrio vulnificus bacteria can be found in the ocean or other salt water bodies. Most reports of infection from these bacteria happen after eating contaminated raw seafood. Raw oysters are often the source, however other seafood can contain the bacteria too.

How often does Vibriosis Occur?

Vibriosis is not very common in the United States. Most reports of infections occur in coastal states and happen between June and October. Between 1988 and 1991, there had been fewer than 21 documented instances of Vibrio parahemolyticus infection in the U.S. From 1988 to 1995, there had been more than 300 reported cases of Vibrio vulnificus disease in the United States.

The occurrence of vibriosis in seafood is dependent on several factors, including water temperature and stability of weather. The occurrence rate is higher when there are storms and in spring and fall when water temperatures are less stable.

After consuming seafood contaminated with Vibrio parahemolyticus or Vibrio vulnificus, the bacteria begin causing serious damage to intestine inner walls, resulting in diarrhea and other physical symptoms of vibriosis. Vibrio vulnificus can easily penetrate the intestinal wall and enter the bloodstream.

Vibriosis growing in a petri dishWho can get Vibriosis?

People in the high risk zone for frequently lethal vibriosis include those suffering from liver ailments (cirrhosis), increased levels of iron in the blood (hemochromatosis), a blood disorder called thalassemia, AIDS (or other immunodeficient diseases), diabetes, or people diagnosed as immunosuppressed.

Besides getting vibriosis from contaminated seafood, it is also possible to cross-contaminate other foods with the infected seafood. For instance, there have been reported cases of vibrosis in people who ate seafood that was washed in the same saltwater that infected seafood was washed in.

There have also been reports of people taking antacid being more susceptible to infection, because stomach acid normally kills the bacteria.

Some cases of vibriosis occur when people walk or play in contaminated salt water and the bacteria is allowed to enter the body through a cut or scrape.

Symptoms of Vibriosis

Vibrio infection with coloration on ankleSymptoms of vibriosis, including intestinal infection develop in fewer than two days of eating infected seafood. Symptoms persist for 2 to 10 days and consist of watery diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, headache, and potentially high fever. Symptoms of a blood infection can be identified within two days from consuming tainted seafood, and may consist of fever, chills, low blood pressure, and sizeable fluid-filled lesions on legs or arms. Very similar lesions may be produced by a Vibrio vulnificus skin infection.

Vibriosis can be identified and addressed by an infectious disease physician. It may be identified once Vibrio bacteria are produced from specimens of stool, blood, or blister solution. The symptoms and haven eaten raw seafood are quite significant indications to help with diagnosis.

To combat the dehydration ensuing from diarrhea, the patient should be given fluids by mouth or through intravenous. Antibiotics cannot help in the treatment of Vibrio parahemolyticus diarrhea.

But, infections from Vibrio vulnificus can be treated with antibiotics like tetracycline (Sumycin, Achromycin V), or doxycycline (Monodox) plus ceftazidime (Ceftaz, Fortraz, Tazicef). About 20% of those diagnosed with vibriosis need to be hospitalized.

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