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State Investigates Rare Bacteria Infection Death


Vibriosis, a rare but potentially fatal bacterial infection that can cause skin breakdown and ulcers, has been identified in a recently deceased individual from Suffolk County, New York. Fatal cases of vibriosis have also been identified in Connecticut. Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday urged New Yorkers to learn how to avoid exposure and to take appropriate precautions, as the New York State Department of Health reminded providers to consider vibriosis when diagnosing wound infections or sepsis of unknown origins.

Vibriosis is caused by several species of bacteria, including the Vibrio vulnificus bacteria, which occurs naturally in saltwater coastal environments and can be found in higher concentrations from May to October when the weather is warmer. Infection with vibriosis can cause a range of symptoms when ingested, including diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, fever and chills. Exposure can also result in ear infections and cause sepsis and life-threatening wound infections.

The death in Suffolk County is still being investigated to determine if the bacteria was encountered in New York waters or elsewhere. In the meantime, the New York State Department of Health this week reminded healthcare providers to consider vibrio vulnificus when seeing individuals with severe wound infections or sepsis with or without wound infections.

While anyone can get vibriosis, those with liver disease, cancer, or a weakened immune system or people taking medicine to decrease stomach acid levels may be more likely to get an infection or develop complications when infected. 

To help prevent vibriosis, people with a wound, such as a cut or scrape, a recent piercing or tattoo, should avoid exposing skin to warm seawater in coastal environments or cover the wound with a waterproof bandage. In addition, those with compromised immune systems should avoid eating raw or undercooked shellfish, such as oysters, which can carry the bacteria. Wear gloves when handling raw shellfish and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water when finished.

More information about vibriosis can be found here (https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/vibriosis/index.htm).


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