AUSTIN -- The Texas Department of Health is reminding people to take precautions against Vibrio infections, which can occur when Gulf or bay water comes in contact with cuts or open wounds.
Vibrio is not new to the world, and it's not new to Texas, but some precautions are in order, said Linda Gaul, an epidemiologist with the Texas Department of Health (TDH). We can't downplay the seriousness of Vibrio infections, but we're really not seeing any unusual numbers.
Since late March, the TDH has confirmed 20 cases of Vibrio illness in Texas residents, including three deaths. Gaul said the state averages around three dozen cases a year. Health authorities have confirmed three cases of Vibrio infections this month. At least two of them were associated with exposure of cuts or open wounds to coastal saltwater.
Several species of Vibrio bacteria live in coastal saltwater around the world. The bacteria are present throughout the year but are more prevalent in summer months when water temperatures are higher. Vibrio vulnificus and Vibrio parahaemolyticus are two common species of the organism.
Gaul said simply coming in contact with Gulf water does not mean an infection will happen. But she said people with cuts or open sores or wounds should avoid exposing them to Gulf, bay and other coastal water.
Wounds or cuts exposed to seawater should be washed immediately with soap and fresh water. Medical treatment should be sought if signs of infection, such as redness or swelling, occur or if the wound or cut is deep.
Vibrio also can be contracted from eating raw or undercooked shellfish from infested waters. Health officials continually warn that those with diabetes, weakened immune systems or liver problems should never consume raw or undercooked shellfish, including oysters, clams and mussels.
Vibrio infections can be successfully treated with antibiotics if treated early, but some infections can be deadly.
Last year, 43 cases of Vibrio infections were recorded in Texas. There were seven deaths.
Symptoms of infection from seawater exposure can include breakdown of the skin and ulcerations. Ingestion of the organism can cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. If Vibrio infects the bloodstream more likely to happen in those with diabetes, weakened immune systems or liver problems serious complications marked by fever, chills, septic shock and blistering skin lesions can occur.
Gaul said there are no warnings or advisories discouraging visits to the Texas coast.
Source: Texas Department of Health