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Vibrio vulnificus infection

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Fact sheet - Health conditions directory

Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that occurs naturally in marine and estuarine waters throughout the world. It thrives in warm waters (especially warmer than 18 degrees C) and it is therefore common in tropical and subtropical estuarine and sea waters. The bacterium can be present in the water itself and in shellfish that grow in these waters.

For the majority of people, the bacterium is harmless. However, people who wade or swim in estuarine or sea water with wounds or breaks in their skin, or who ingest raw or undercooked shellfish, may be at risk of infection.

Infections are uncommon and are usually mild. However, on rare occasions Vibrio vulnificus may cause life-threatening infections.

People with chronic liver diseases including hepatitis, cirrhosis, haemochromatosis (iron storage disease) and liver cancer; and people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease or conditions that impair the immune system, are at a higher risk of serious infection. People who take prescribed medication to decrease stomach acid levels or who have had gastric surgery are also at higher risk.

Vibrio vulnificus infections are not notifiable in Queensland so total numbers of laboratory-confirmed cases are unknown. From hospital data, in the financial year 2010/2011 there were 16 hospitalisations reported as being associated with Vibrio vulnificus infections across Queensland.

Last updated: 5 June 2023

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