Since July 1, three people in Connecticut have fallen ill to a serious bacterial infection — two of whom have died. Now the state's Department of Public Health is issuing a warning.
The bacterial infection, known as Vibrio vulnificus, comes from eating raw or undercooked seafood, or contact with saltwater or brackish water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Even if a person doesn't consume the seafood, they can still contract the infection from contact with its drippings or juices. This happens when bacteria enters a wound and infects the person.
In the case of the infected people in Connecticut, one reported consuming raw oysters from an out-of-state establishment, and the other two said they were exposed to saltwater or brackish water in Long Island Sound. Both patients had pre-existing wounds or wounds created by these activities, which could have led to infection. The three patients are between 60 and 80 years old.
Some Vibrio vulnificus infections lead to necrotizing fasciitis, in which the flesh around the open wound dies.
"Many people with Vibrio vulnificus infection require intensive care or limb amputations, and about 1 in 5 people with this infection die, sometimes within a day or two of becoming ill," the CDC said.
While the illness is rare, Connecticut's Department of Public Health has issued a number of guidelines to lower the risk of contracting the disease.
Reduce your chance of infection
- Don't eat raw or undercooked oysters or other shellfish
- Stay away from saltwater or brackish water if you have a wound (including from a recent surgery, piercing or tattoo)
- Cover your wound with a waterproof bandage if it could come into contact with saltwater, brackish water, marine life, or raw or undercooked seafood
- Wash wounds thoroughly with soap and water after contact with saltwater, brackish water, marine life, raw seafood or its juices
Infection is diagnosed when Vibrio bacteria are found in a person’s wound, blood or stool, according to the CDC. Antibiotics are used for treatment. Doctors may need to amputate arms or legs to remove dead or infected tissue.