Texas man’s death linked to eating raw oysters; health officials warn of fatal bacteria infections

CDC: People with underlying health conditions should refrain from swimming in coastal waters, eating raw shellfish due to Vibrio vulnificus

Oysters (Pixabay.com)

GALVESTON, Texas – Texas health officials are warning people about fatal Vibrio infections after a Galveston County man died from eating raw oysters.

The Galveston County Health Department said the man died due to Vibrio vulnificus, and he had underlying health conditions that predisposed him to the infection.

He was between 30 and 40 years old, health officials said in a news release on Friday.

On Sept. 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a Public Health Alert Network Health Advisory to notify the public, laboratories and public health departments about fatal Vibrio vulnificus infections due to warmer water.

Vibrio vulnificus is a common species of Vibrio, a bacteria that naturally lives in coastal waters. Other common Vibrio species that cause illness are Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio alginolyticus.

The CDC states that people can become infected through an open wound or by consuming raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly oysters. People with underlying health conditions such as liver disease, diabetes and immunocompromising conditions have a higher risk for wound infection.

Overall, Vibrio causes about 80,000 illnesses per year in the U.S. and the symptoms include diarrhea, stomach cramping, nausea or fever.

However, only about 150-200 Vibrio vulnificus infections are reported each year to the CDC and one in five cases are fatal. Patients may die within one to two days of becoming ill, the CDC states.

The bacteria thrive in warmer waters, particularly during the summer.

“During July–August 2023, the United States has experienced above-average coastal sea surface temperatures and widespread heat waves,” the CDC states.

The CDC added that several states on the East Coast have reported severe and fatal infections mostly caused by wound exposure. Some of the cases were associated with the consumption of raw or undercooked seafood.

“Amid increasing water temperatures and extreme weather events (e.g., heat waves, flooding, and severe storms) associated with climate change, people who are at increased risk for V. vulnificus infection should exercise caution when engaging in coastal water activities,” the CDC states.

The Galveston County Health Department also urged people with liver disease, diabetes and immunocompromising conditions to refrain from eating raw shellfish.

For more information on signs and symptoms, click here.

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Rebecca Salinas joined KSAT in the fall of 2019. Her skills include content management, engagement and reporting.