Vibriosis is a bacterial infection acquired from eating raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly those found in warm coastal waters, such as oysters. It can also be acquired by swimming in warm ocean water with an open wound, especially on the fingers, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet, as the bacteria are found naturally in that environment. Vibriosis causes GI illness that can be mild or severe, although severe illness is rare. Infection can be fatal in immunocompromised patients.
Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio vulnificus cause vibriosis. Vibrio bacteria cause diarrhea, skin infections, and/or blood infections. The diarrhea-causing V. parahaemolyticus is a relatively harmless infection, but V. vulnificus infection, although rare, often progresses to blood poisoning and death. These bacteria live in brackish salt water along the coastal areas of the United States and Canada and thrive in the warmer summer months. Vibriosis is a reportable infection. Although underreported because laboratories may not always use the appropriate tests to specifically identify it, the infection is thought to affect approximately 4,500 people annually in the United States.
Complications of vibriosis include dehydration from severe fluid loss. Compartment syndrome may develop in patients with a wound infection. Patients with liver disease or underlying medical conditions (such as hemochromatosis or thalassemia) may develop disseminated intravascular coagulation, multiple organ dysfunction, or acute respiratory distress syndrome. Patients with diabetes, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or other immunosuppressive conditions are at increased risk of complications, including septicemia and death.
Symptoms of vibriosis generally begin within 24 hours of ingestion and may last 2 to 10 days. The patient may present with the complaint of watery diarrhea, which may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, and chills. Stools may be bloody. Signs and symptoms of dehydration may be present, such as poor skin turgor, tachycardia, and decreased blood pressure, depending on the severity of fluid loss. A patient with an open wound may present with pain, swelling, redness, and purulent drainage at the wound site, along with fever.