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Raw shellfish and seawater may bring infection

Vibrio vulnificusis a bacterium that normally makes its home in warm seawater. It can cause a dangerous infection, though, particularly now in late summer when the seawater temperatures are highest.

There are two ways that most vibrio bacteria infections occur: One is from eating raw shellfish such as oysters and the other is by exposing an open wound to contaminated seawater. The skin infection can cause blistering lesions, while ingesting vibrio can cause watery diarrhea, cramping, vomiting, and chills, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s not terribly common in Southwest Florida, but it is something to look out for.

So far this summer there have been no deaths, but according to the Florida Department of Health, Collier County has seen 9 cases, Lee has had 6, Manatee and Sarasota have had 2 each, and Hendry has had 1.

The best way to avoid infection is not to eat raw or undercooked shellfish, says the Lee County Department of Health. And stay out of saltwater or brackish water if you have any type of wound.

Although anyone can get sick from vibrio, you may be more likely to get an infection or severe complications if you:

  • Have liver disease, cancer, diabetes, HIV, or thalassemia.
  • Are on immune-suppressing therapy.
  • Are on medication to decrease stomach acid levels.
  • Have had recent stomach surgery.

If any of these circumstances apply to you, in addition to the general precautions, follow these:

  • Wear clothes and shoes that protect you from getting cut or scraped when in salt water or brackish water.
  • Wear protective gloves when handling raw seafood.

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