PENNSYLVANIA (WTAJ) — A rare and potentially deadly flesh-eating bacteria that’s causing concerns in the U.S. has been confirmed in a Pennsylvania resident.
The Vibrio vulnificus (V. vulnificus) infection was confirmed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, saying that a resident likely contracted the bacteria in another state and it’s non-contagious. Due to medical privacy laws, no other information was available from the Dept. of Health.
Health officials say there have been three deaths in recent weeks from vibriosis in the country, an illness caused by the bacteria.
V. vulnificus is found naturally in warm saltwater and people can be infected through an open wound, including a fresh new tattoo. It can also be contracted by eating raw, infected shellfish, particularly raw oysters.
Symptoms of Vibriosis:
There are a number of symptoms when infected by ingesting the bacteria, according to the Dept. of Health. Those can include vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
In people with underlying health issues, particularly with chronic liver disease, the bacteria can infect the bloodstream, causing severe and life-threatening illness with fever and chills, decreased blood pressure (septic shock) and blistering skin lesions. Health officials said that bloodstream infections are deadly roughly 50% of the time.
The bacteria can also cause infection in open wounds exposed to warm seawater. It may lead to skin breakdown and ulceration, officials said. Those who are immunocompromised have a higher risk of bloodstream infection with potentially deadly complications.
How Rare is it?
V. vulnificus is a rare cause of disease but is also underreported, health officials said. Between 1988 and 1995, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) received reports of over 300 infections from the Gulf Coast states, where the majority of cases occur. There is no national surveillance system for V. vulnificus infections, but the CDC collaborates with the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi to monitor the number of cases of V. vulnificus infection in the Gulf Coast region.
In 2007, infections caused by V. vulnificus and other Vibrio species became nationally reportable.
For more information on V. vulnificus, you can read the CDC’s frequently asked questions page by clicking here.