If you have an open wound, be sure to stay out of water
Not long ago, I read some recent reports about some cases of Vibrio vulnificus in Maryland. I would like to clarify some information. There are roughly a dozen species that are known to cause vibriosis in humans, with the most common in the United States being Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Vibrio vulnificus and Vibrio alginolyticus. The vibrio species that cause vibriosis naturally live in brackish or salt water.
Vibrio has been around for thousands of years. The introduction of some pollutants such as nitrogen has caused some of the bacteria to become altered from its natural benign state. People with vibriosis become infected by consuming raw or undercooked seafood or exposing an open wound to sea water.
Most infections occur from May through October when the water is warmer.
Vibrio is a bacterium, which is a living cell consisting of a fluid called cytoplasm enclosed by a cell membrane and cell wall. A bacterium contains DNA in the cytoplasm in the form of a chromosome. It is important to note that a bacterium is a form of life. However, it does not breathe. It doesn’t have lungs. There have been several cases of Vibrio vulnificus which was caused by a crab pot pulled out of an area where Vibrio vulnificus was present. The crab pot had a loose wire that punctured the person’s skin, thus injecting the person. In a separate case, a crab that was caught in an area where Vibrio vulnificus was present pinched the person, breaking the skin. That provided an open wound for the Vibrio vulnificus to enter. In a third case, a person stepped on an oyster shell barefoot. Since Vibrio vulnificus was present in the water the oyster shell caused the open wound, thus allowing it an area to infect the person. In another instance, a person caught a rockfish in an area where Vibrio vulnificus was present. A part of the fish punctured the person’s skin, thus injecting bacteria into the person. A common factor in each of these cases is that it took a very small amount of water where this bacterium was present to infect the person. A small drop where vibrio is present is all it takes.
In each of these cases, prevention is the key to preventing infection. Rubber gloves should be worn when handling crab pots, crabs and fish. Water shoes with soles should be worn if your feet can touch the bottom. Check yourself and children for open wounds prior to going in the water. If you have an open wound, stay out of the water.
If you believe you may have been infected with Vibrio vulnificus or any other of this bacteria family, immediate medical attention can be the difference between life and death. Vibro vulnificus is often misdiagnosed in hospital emergency rooms. Doctors have been known to improperly identify the infection and treat the patient with standard antibiotics. Third-generation antibiotics, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the recommended course of treatment. If standard antibiotics are used, the infection can still spread since it is still not treated properly. Once in your body, the bacterium will move rapidly.
Doctors have been known to try and control the spread by amputation of the infected area. However, a proper course of treatment by third-generation antibiotics immediately after being infected can be the difference between life and death. If not treated properly, death can occur within 48 hours. Education is the key. Roy Fedders, Dameron