The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) is warning residents about the potential dangers of consuming raw shellfish and exposure to salt or brackish water along Long Island Sound, due to severe Vibrio vulnificus infections.
Since July 1, three cases of V. vulnificus infections have been reported to DPH. The three patients are between 60-80 years of age. All three patients were hospitalized and one died. One patient reported consuming raw oysters from an out-of-state establishment. Two patients reported exposure to salt or brackish water in Long Island Sound. Both patients had pre-existing open cuts or wounds or sustained new wounds during these activities which likely led to the infections.
“The identification of these severe cases, including one fatality, due to V. vulnificus is concerning,” said DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD. “People should consider the potential risk of consuming raw oysters and exposure to salt or brackish water and take appropriate precautions. Particularly during the hottest months of the summer, bacteria are more likely to overgrow and contaminate raw shellfish. Given our current heat wave, this may be a time to exercise particular caution in what you consume.”
V. vulnificus infection is an extremely rare illness. Five cases were reported in 2020 in Connecticut, and none in 2021 and 2022. V. vulnificus infections from oysters can result in severe illness, including bloodstream infections. V. vulnificus can also cause wound infections when open wounds are exposed to warm salt or brackish water (mix of salt and fresh water). People with a V. vulnificus infection can get seriously ill and need intensive care or limb amputation. About one in five people with this type of infection die. People at greatest risk for illness from V. vulnificus are those with weakened immune systems and the elderly.
You can reduce your chance of getting this type of infection by following these precautions:
- Don’t eat raw or undercooked oysters or other shellfish.
- If you have a wound (including from a recent surgery, piercing, or tattoo), stay out of saltwater or brackish water, if possible. This includes wading at the beach.
- Cover your wound with a waterproof bandage if it could come into contact with saltwater, brackish water, marine life, or raw or undercooked seafood and its juices. This contact can happen during everyday activities, such as swimming, fishing, or walking on the beach.
- Wash wounds and cuts thoroughly with soap and water after they have contact with saltwater, brackish water, marine life, raw seafood, or its juices.