Florida Man Dies After Contracting ‘Flesh-Eating Bacteria’ From Eating Raw Oysters

Lisovskaya NataliaShutterstock

A 71-year-old Florida man has recently lost his life due to a dangerous infection, after eating raw oysters at a Sarasota restaurant, reports Fox News.

The news comes from the Florida Department of Health, which revealed that the raw oysters were tainted with a bacterium called Vibrio vulnificus, commonly mislabeled as the “flesh-eating bacterium.”

Vibrio vulnificus bacteria are typically found in salt water and in raw or undercooked shellfish, notes the Florida Department of Health. In this particular case, the infection with this pathogen has resulted in severe gastrointestinal symptoms that eventually led to death.

“We have an individual that consumed some raw oysters and to the best of our knowledge had no exposure to salt water, became severely ill, and passed away,” Michael Drennon, Disease Intervention Services Program Manager at the Sarasota County Health Dept, said in a statement.

While neither the man’s identity nor the name of the Sarasota restaurant has been released, the incident occurred earlier this month. According to the sources, the 71-year-old man consumed the contaminated oysters on July 8 and died two days later, on July 10.

Health officials are currently investigating the matter and are working with the Sarasota restaurant to determine the exact batch of oysters where the tainted food came from so that sale of that specific batch can be stopped, reports ABC Action News.

What Is Vibrio Vulnificus?

Vibrio vulnificus belongs to a class of bacteria known as “halophilic,” because they thrive in salty environments. The bacterium dwells in warm, brackish seawater and can cause serious illness, especially in people with certain underlying conditions.

Microscopic view of Vibrio vulnificus bacteria.
Featured image credit: Giovanni CancemiShutterstock

In Florida, the Vibrio vulnificus bacterium is present year-round and this year has already led to 16 cases of infection statewide, with three confirmed fatalities, report health officials.

“Infections are rare but exposures occur more commonly during the summer months from May to October, when the water is warmer,” Florida Department of Health representatives told the Tampa Bay.

The bacteria enter the bloodstream either through cuts, scrapes, and open lesions exposed to seawater or through the ingestion of uncooked shellfish.

Vibrio vulnificus is often mislabeled as flesh-eating bacteria, but it is very important to note that it is not flesh-eating bacteria,” Mara Gambineri, the department’s communications director, told the Epoch Times last year, when a fatality caused by the infection was reported in Escambia County.

Symptoms Of A Vibrio Vulnificus Infection

While Vibrio vulnificus doesn’t actually consume the flesh, as previously reported by the Inquisitr, it does however produce severe symptoms that can be life-threatening in 50 percent of cases — particularly in people with weakened immune systems, such as patients who suffer from chronic liver disease or kidney disease.

Raw oysters.
Uncooked shellfish, particularly raw oysters, are a known carrier of the 'Vibrio vulnificus' bacterium.Featured image credit: Lisovskaya NataliaShutterstock

Although healthy people usually come away from a Vibrio vulnificus with just a mild disease, the bacterium can cause serious symptoms, which include fever, chills, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, decreased blood pressure (septic shock), and blistering skin lesions.

“We tell everybody regardless of age or immune status that they should avoid eating raw or undercooked shell fish or seafood or avoid or being in the salt water when they have an open wound or lesion on their body,” Drennon said.

This is the first confirmed case of a Vibrio vulnificus infection in Sarasota in 2018, according to a Florida Department of Health statistic. In 2017, 11 people died after contracting the infection, out of 49 confirmed cases reported throughout the state. In 2016, there were 46 confirmed cases statewide and 10 fatalities.

Last fall, a Texas woman shared the same fate as the Florida man and succumbed from an infection with a vibrio bacteria after eating raw oysters while visiting family in Louisiana, the Inquisitr reported at the time.