2 Connecticut deaths linked to Vibrio bacteria this summer

shellfishing in Long Island Sound

Two Connecticut residents have died this summer following an infection of the flesh-eating bacteria, Vibrio. State officials said the two residents died after coming into contact with the bacteria while consuming raw seafood or swimming in Long Island Sound.

Connecticut last saw the presence of the Vibrio bacteria in 2020, when there were five confirmed Vibrio vulnificus wound infections, according to state officials. To date, the Nutmeg State has seen three cases of the Vibrio vulnificus illness in 2023. Health officials say that Connecticut’s raw shellfish is safe to eat and bacteria has not been found in any of the state’s oysters, which are tested statewide.

The CDC website recommends doing the following to prevent coming into contact with the Vibrio bacteria:

  • Do not consume raw or undercooked oysters or other shellfish.
  • Always wash hands with soap and water after handing raw shellfish.
  • Avoid contaminating cooked shellfish with raw shellfish and its juices.
  • Stay out of salt water or brackish water if you have a wound (including from a recent surgery, piercing, or tattoo), or cover your wound with a waterproof bandage if there’s a possibility it could come into contact with salt water or brackish water, raw seafood, or raw seafood juices.
  • Wash wounds and cuts thoroughly with soap and water if they have been exposed to seawater or raw seafood or its juices.

Those in high-risk categories should do the following prevention measures:

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

DPH warns residents about severe Vibrio infections caused by consumption of raw shellfish or exposure to salt or brackish water

The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) is warning residents about the potential dangers of consuming raw shellfish and exposure to salt or brackish water along Long Island Sound, due to severe Vibrio vulnificus infections.

Since July 1, three cases of V. vulnificus infections have been reported to DPH. The three patients are between 60-80 years of age. All three patients were hospitalized and one died.  One patient reported consuming raw oysters from an out-of-state establishment. Two patients reported exposure to salt or brackish water in Long Island Sound. Both patients had pre-existing open cuts or wounds or sustained new wounds during these activities which likely led to the infections. 

“The identification of these severe cases, including one fatality, due to V. vulnificus is concerning,” said DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD. “People should consider the potential risk of consuming raw oysters and exposure to salt or brackish water and take appropriate precautions. Particularly during the hottest months of the summer, bacteria are more likely to overgrow and contaminate raw shellfish. Given our current heat wave, this may be a time to exercise particular caution in what you consume.”

V. vulnificus infection is an extremely rare illness. Five cases were reported in 2020 in Connecticut, and none in 2021 and 2022. V. vulnificus infections from oysters can result in severe illness, including bloodstream infections.  V. vulnificus can also cause wound infections when open wounds are exposed to warm salt or brackish water (mix of salt and fresh water).  People with a V. vulnificus infection can get seriously ill and need intensive care or limb amputation. About one in five people with this type of infection die. People at greatest risk for illness from V. vulnificus are those with weakened immune systems and the elderly.

 You can reduce your chance of getting this type of infection by following these precautions:

  • Don’t eat raw or undercooked oysters or other shellfish. 
  • If you have a wound (including from a recent surgery, piercing, or tattoo), stay out of saltwater or brackish water, if possible. This includes wading at the beach.
  • Cover your wound with a waterproof bandage if it could come into contact with saltwater, brackish water, marine life, or raw or undercooked seafood and its juices. This contact can happen during everyday activities, such as swimming, fishing, or walking on the beach.
  • Wash wounds and cuts thoroughly with soap and water after they have contact with saltwater, brackish water, marine life, raw seafood, or its juices.

 For more information on V. vulnificus infections, visit https://www.cdc.gov/vibrio/wounds.html 


From the CT State Department of Public Health


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