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
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.