Officials in Connecticut, New York issue vibrio warning after multiple deaths

Published on
August 18, 2023
Raw oysters on the half shell on a bed of ice.

Officials with the U.S. states of Connecticut and New York have issued warnings cautioning residents to take precautions when eating raw shellfish or swimming in brackish waters after multiple cases of Vibrio vulnificus.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul issued a warning to residents on 16 August after a resident in Suffolk County, New York who had recently died was discovered to be infected with the bacteria. The case came after three people in Connecticut were infected with vibrio: Two after swimming in locations on Long Island Sound, and one after eating raw oysters from an out-of-state establishment, the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) warned.

“The identification of these severe cases, including one fatality, due to V. vulnificus is concerning,” Connecticut DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani said in a release. “People should consider the potential risk of consuming raw oysters and exposure to salt or brackish water and take appropriate precautions. Particularly during the hottest months of the summer, bacteria are more likely to overgrow and contaminate raw shellfish. Given our current heat wave, this may be a time to exercise particular caution in what you consume.”

The three patients in Connecticut, the DPH said, were all between 60 and 80 years of age, and according to the DPH, all three were hospitalized. The Associated Press reports two deaths occurred in July associated with Vibrio, and that the Connecticut Bureau of Aquaculture doesn’t believe the state’s infections are linked to local shellfish.

The most recent death in Suffolk County is still being investigated, according to New York officials, to determine whether the bacteria was encountered inside the state or elsewhere. In the meantime, New York State Health Commissioner James McDonald said healthcare providers should be on alert.

 “We are reminding providers to be on the lookout for cases of vibriosis, which is not often the first diagnosis that comes to mind,” McDonald said. “We are also suggesting to New Yorkers that if you have wounds, you should avoid swimming in warm seawater. And, if you have a compromised immune system, you should also avoid handling or eating raw seafood that could also carry the bacteria.”

Photo courtesy of Take Photo/Shutterstock

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