Vibrio Infections

This page has been automatically translated from English. MSDH has not reviewed this translation and is not responsible for any inaccuracies.

Vibrio vulnificus and other Vibrio bacteria live in warm coastal waters. Vibrio bacteria can cause illness when an open wound is exposed to coastal waters, or when a person eats contaminated seafood.

Eating raw shellfish – especially oysters – contaminated with Vibrio may cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Individuals with compromised immune systems, particularly those with chronic liver disease, are also likely to develop a bloodstream infection with fever and chills, blistering skin lesions and possibly death.

Who is at Risk

Anyone can get sick from vibriosis, but you may be more likely to get an infection or severe complications if:

  • You have liver disease, cancer, diabetes, HIV, or thalassemia
  • You receive immune-suppressing therapy for the treatment of disease
  • You take medicine to decrease stomach acid levels
  • You have had recent stomach surgery

Precautions to Take

  • Stay out of brackish or salt water if you have a wound (including cuts and scrapes), or cover your wound with a waterproof bandage if there's a possibility it could come into contact with brackish or salt water, raw seafood, or raw seafood juices.
  • Wash wounds and cuts thoroughly with soap and water if they have been exposed to coastal waters or raw seafood or its juices.
  • If you develop a skin infection, tell your medical provider if your skin has come into contact with brackish or salt water, raw seafood, or raw seafood juices.
  • Don't eat raw or undercooked oysters or other shellfish. Cook them before eating. Cooking tips
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water after handing raw shellfish. About proper handwashing
  • Avoid contaminating cooked shellfish with raw shellfish and its juices.

If you are in a group at higher risk for severe infection

  • Wear clothes and shoes that can protect you from cuts and scrapes when in brackish or salt water.
  • Wear protective gloves when handling raw seafood.

Cooking Oysters Safely

Before cooking, discard any shellfish with open shells.

In the shell

For shellfish in the shell, either:

  • Boil until the shells open and continue boiling 5 more minutes, or
  • Steam until the shells open and continue steaming for 9 more minutes.

Only eat shellfish that open during cooking. Discard shellfish that do not open fully after cooking.


For shucked oysters, either:

  • Boil for at least 3 minutes,
  • Fry in oil for at least 3 minutes at 375° Fahrenheit,
  • Broil 3 inches from heat for 3 minutes, or
    bake at 450° Fahrenheit for 10 minutes.

More Information

Last reviewed on May 13, 2022 request edits
Mississippi State Department of Health 570 East Woodrow Wilson Dr Jackson, MS 39216 866‑HLTHY4U Contact and information

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