Vibriosis is a rare illness caused by Vibrio bacteria. Vibrio bacteria are found naturally in marine coastal waters and are more common in warmer waters, such as in the Gulf of Mexico. There are several types of Vibrio bacteria that cause illness in people, the most common of these are:
Ocean beach
Most cases of vibriosis are reported in the Gulf Coast states, but cases are reported in New Jersey each year.

Vibrio bacteria can cause disease in those who eat raw or undercooked contaminated seafood or who have an open wound that is exposed to seawater. Oysters and other shellfish feed by filtering water-surrounding areas where vibrios may thrive and as a result concentrate the bacteria in their tissues. When a person eats these shellfish raw or undercooked, the bacteria enter the digestive tract and multiply rapidly. Poor food handling during preparation or improper refrigeration of seafood can also lead to illness.

Persons who are immunocompromised, especially those with liver disease, diabetes, and other stomach disorders are at increased risk of infection and complications. Vibrio bacteria can cause three types of illness, depending on the type of bacteria involved.
Gastrointestinal Illness
If seafood that is contaminated with Vibrio bacteria is consumed, people can develop:
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
Oysters with shells opened
Most people develop a mild or moderate illness, but some people do need hospitalization. Illness generally lasts 1 to 7 days. Symptoms usually begin 12-24 hours after eating contaminated seafood, but can range from 4 to 72 hours.

Wound Infection
If Vibrio bacteria enter an opening in the skin, they can cause a serious infection. These infections usually begin with redness and swelling at the wound site. Vibrio wound infections occur when a person with a cut or abrasion swims, wades, or fishes in seawater containing a high number of Vibrio bacteria.

Blood Infection (Septicemia)
Septicemia occurs when the bacteria that enter the body through the digestive tract or through a wound cross over into the bloodstream. Blood infections generally occur in people with underlying health problems. These infections can be serious, even fatal, and require immediate treatment.

Vibrio bacteria can be detected in the blood, stool, and from wound samples.

Persons with High-Risk Medical Conditions
Persons with high-risk medical conditions and anyone who wishes to reduce the risk of Vibrio infection can take the following steps:
Cook Oysters & Shellfish
Eat only cooked oysters and other shellfish. When cooking shellfish at home, follow these guidelines:
  • For shellfish in the shell, either boil until the shells open and continue boiling for another 5 minutes or steam until the shells open and then continue steaming for another 9 minutes. Use small pots to boil or steam shellfish. Do not cook too many in the same pot because the ones in the middle may not get fully cooked. Discard any shellfish that do not open during cooking.
  • For shucked oysters, either boil or simmer them for at least 3 minutes or until the edges curl, fry them in oil at 375 degrees for at least 10 minutes, or bake them at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.
  • When you purchase shellfish the shells should be closed. Throw away any shellfish with shells already opened.
Fried seafood on plates
Open Wounds & Sores
If you have open wounds or sores, avoid contact with seawater until the skin is healed. Wear gloves or avoid contact with raw shellfish if you have broken skin on your hands.