Seafood is generally good for you, but the summer months do pose an increased risk for Vibrio contamination.
This contamination often occurs between May and October due to the warmer weather. That’s because Vibrio is a type of bacteria that multiplies more easily during warm seasons, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of last week, the CDC has reported 12 cases of vibriosis caused by the bacteria Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Officials state that the illness is most likely linked to pre-cooked crab meat from Venezuela.
The CDC recommends that no one should eat or serve this Venezuelan crab meat right now. Those who don’t know whether their meat is from Venezuela should throw it away.
So far, 4 people have been hospitalized as a result of this outbreak. Thankfully no deaths have occurred.
What You Need to Know about Vibrio
As mentioned above, Vibrio is bacteria that is often found in undercooked seafood and seawater. The most common species of Vibrio can cause infections such as vibriosis and cholera.
The CDC estimates as many as 80,000 cases of vibriosis per year. However, the symptoms can look similar to food poisoning.
Symptoms may include:
- Bloody diarrhea
- Stomach pains
In addition to this outbreak, you should also understand the risks with eating raw oysters. Another similar species of bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus is often found in this seafood, and its infection can quickly turn life-threatening.
According to the national Food Safety website, people with hampered immune systems are most at risk for infection in the bloodstream.
Those exposed to contaminated seawater can also get infected, usually through an open wound where the bacteria can enter the blood.
The Tattoo That Went Wrong
Although experts deem it rare for these Vibrio infections to occur, people with HIV, liver disease, cancer or any other immune-hampering condition are at severe risk.
Here’s a prime example:
Last year, one man decided to swim in the Gulf of Mexico with a new tattoo, reported CNN. Unfortunately, the Gulf of Mexico is a prime location for Vibrio bacteria, and the healing tattoo provided the open route needed for infection.
The man’s condition was hampered even further due to liver disease caused by excessive drinking. Though doctors did everything they could, the man died about two months after infection occurred.
While this scenario definitely provides a good warning, this serious of an infection is rare. The man’s doctors told CNN that most people with normal immune systems can fight off infection without problems.
When infection does happen, however, it’s usually the people most at risk. In addition, many cases where Vibrio vulnificus is involved happen because people consume raw oysters.
The Food Safety website recommends eating oysters fully cooked and throwing away any with already opened shells. If you do have an impaired immune system, you should avoid eating raw oysters entirely.
Right now, you should mainly watch out for imported crab meat from Venezuela. However, this outbreak is a good reminder to stay safe when eating any seafood this summer or while swimming in the ocean.