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After eating oysters contaminated with the Vibrio Vulnificus bacterium, a fifty-year-old American died.

This story seems totally improbable, but it is unfortunately the reality: a 54-year-old American died on June 8 after eating oysters…

Purchased from a shop in Manchester (in the State of Missouri, United States), the oysters in question were contaminated with the bacteria Vibrio vulnificus.

Vibrio vulnificus belongs to the same family as the pathogen responsible for cholera. This bacteria can cause three types of infections:

  • A gastroenteritiswhen eating contaminated seafood (especially oysters): vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain are observed,
  • A necrotizing wound infectionwhen bathing in contaminated water and showing damaged skin – the Vibrio Vulnificus bacterium is then described as “flesh-eating”,
  • A invasive sepsiswhen you consume contaminated shellfish (oysters, in particular) and you suffer from a weak immune system: you then see the appearance of skin lesions and septic shock that can sometimes lead to death.

In case of bacterial infection Vibrio vulnificusthe first symptoms generally occur between 12 and 72 hours after consumption of contaminated shellfish.

A bacterium that multiplies in warm, salty water

The bacterium Vibrio vulnificus multiplies naturally in warm, salty waters: vibriosis (i.e. infections linked to this pathogen) are therefore more frequent in summer. “On average, an oyster filters 190 liters of water per day; it can therefore easily be contaminated by a virus, bacterium or parasite present naturally in the water!” emphasizes Dr. Dave Love, food specialist at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (in the United States).

The advice of the American health authorities? If you suffer from a weak immune system and/or if you have a chronic liver disease (liver failure, for example), avoid consuming raw or undercooked seafood, especially in summer…

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