Vibrisosis (non-cholera) is primarily a diarrheal disease caused by many types of Vibrio bacteria. Most vibriosis cases are caused by Vibrio parahaemolyticus or Vibrio vulnificus. Vibrio bacteria are found in coastal and seawater worldwide. In the United States, infections are more common between May to October when water temperatures are warmer. People mostly get sick after eating raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly oysters. Vibrio can also cause a skin infection if an open wound is exposed to warm coastal or seawater with the bacteria.
The bacteria that make people sick are naturally found in coastal and seawaters. Most people who get vibriosis get sick after eating raw or undercooked oysters and other types of shellfish and seafood. People can also get sick if they accidentally swallow water with the bacteria in it. People can get a skin infection if the water gets in any open wounds.
Vibriosis primarily causes gastrointestinal disease. People who get sick start to have symptoms one to three days after being exposed to the bacteria.
With gastrointestinal disease, symptoms usually last for one to seven days and include:
- Watery diarrhea
- Stomach cramps
Skin infections can also occur in people who swim in coastal or seawater with open wounds. Skin infections can be mild or severe depending on the type of Vibrio causing it. Vibrio vulnificus can cause severe skin infections that spread quickly and get worse over time.
People with certain medical conditions may also get sick with a blood infection if they are exposed to certain Vibrio bacteria.
Most people with gastrointestinal illness will recover without needing any treatment. Antibiotics are sometimes used if someone has severe or prolonged illness. Drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration if you have diarrhea.
Skin and blood infections may require antibiotics or hospitalization depending on the severity of disease.
To reduce your risk of getting sick:
- Cook oysters and other types of seafood thoroughly.
- Keep raw seafood away from other types of food and produce when grocery shopping or storing in your fridge.
- Wash hands, cutting boards, countertops, cooking utensils, and other surfaces thoroughly after handling raw foods to prevent cross-contamination with seafood juices.
- Wash wounds and cuts thoroughly with soap and water after they have contact with saltwater, brackish water, raw seafood, or its juices.
- Stay out of coastal and seawater if you have any open wound (including new tattoos, piercings, or chronic ear infections).
- Wear protective clothing when swimming in coastal or seawater to prevent cuts or scrapes.
- Consider wearing gloves when handling raw seafood.
Questions about Vibriosis? Contact us!
Phone: 608-267-9003 | Fax: 608-261-4976
Wisconsin Local Health Departments – Regional offices – Tribal agencies