As Water Temps Rise, So Do Vibrio Illnesses and Deaths

Unusually high water temperatures this summer are driving an increase in Vibrio infections and fatalities, health officials say. On Friday, state health departments in North Carolina and Connecticut both reported an increase in cases and fatalities.

“As climate change increases water temperatures, more Vibrio cases can be expected, and they are likely to be identified in previously unaffected areas,” the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services stated in a press release about three recent Vibrio deaths.

Vibrio vulnificus are bacteria that live in warm seawater or the brackish water of estuaries and marshes. People can get Vibrio infections if they have open wounds or fresh scratches and enter contaminated water or by eating contaminated shellfish.

Because they are non-mobile, oysters, mussels, clams, and scallops, can get high concentrations of waterborne bacteria in their tissues. But Vibrio contamination won’t alter the taste or smell of shellfish.

Symptoms of a Vibrio infection include vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, fever, and chills. These symptoms usually appear one to three days after exposure and last about 72 hours. But some cases can cause severe illness requiring hospitalization or amputation of an infected limb.

About 20 percent of people who develop severe Vibrio infections die. People with weakened immune systems and people over 60 are at greatest risk of severe illness.

North Carolina Vibrio Illnesses, Deaths

The three North Carolina Vibrio deaths occurred in July. All three patients had exposure to brackish water. But one of the patients also ate “personally caught seafood that was not shared nor commercially distributed.”

In North Carolina, 27 cases of Vibrio have been reported since 2019. Eight of them have been fatal and three of those occurred last month.

Connecticut Vibrio Illnesses and Death

In Connecticut, three people developed Vibrio infections in July and one of them died, according to the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH).

All three patients, who range in age from 60 to 80 years old, were hospitalized. Two of them had open cuts that were exposed to the water in Long Island Sound. The third patient ate raw oysters at a restaurant that is not located in Connecticut.

Historically, Vibrio cases have been uncommon in Connecticut. No cases were reported in 2021 or 2022. In 2020, there were five.

Raw oysters restaurant

Vibrio vulnificus Lawyers

If you developed a Vibrio vulnificus infection from contaminated raw oysters or your family suffered the wrongful death of a loved one, please contact our law firm for a free consultation about a Vibrio Vulnificus lawsuit. Led by Eric Hageman, our Vibrio lawyers are among the very few in the country who have successfully represented clients in these complicated cases. To reach our Vibrio Legal Team please call 1-888-377-8900, or text 612-261-0856.