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Person dies after getting bacterial infection while fishing in Gulf waters

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — South Texas health officials say a person died after becoming infected with bacteria while wade fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Health officials said Tuesday that the person was an elderly individual who was hospitalized with severe leg pain after going into the water with skin tears. Measures taken to fight the infection included amputation.

The Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District says vibrio bacteria naturally inhabit coastal waters where oysters live. The bacteria can enter the body through an open wound or by consuming raw or undercooked shellfish.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says vibriosis causes an estimated 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths each year in the U.S.

Symptoms of vibriosis can include:

  • Watery diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Severe Pain
  • Blistering skin lesions

Dr. Emilie Prot with the Texas Department of State Health Services, says there's a larger amount of the bacteria present in summer months.

Local health officials and the CDC recommend taking the following precautions to keep you and your family safe from vibrio:

  • Don't eat raw or undercooked oysters or other shellfish. Cook them before eating.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling raw shellfish.
  • Stay out of brackish or salt water if you have a wound (including cuts and scrapes), or cover your pound with a waterproof bandage if there's a possibility it could come into contact with brackish or salt water, raw seafood, or raw seafood juices.  Brackish water is a mixture of fresh and sea water. It is often found where rivers meet the sea.
  • Wash wounds and cuts thoroughly with soap and water if they have been exposed to seawater or raw seafood or its juices.
  • If you develop a skin infection, tell your medical provider if your skin has come into contact with brackish or salt water, raw seafood, or raw seafood juices.

Anyone can develop vibriosis, but a person is more likely to develop complications if they have certain health conditions like liver disease, cancer, diabetes, HIV, or a blood disorder. Individuals who receive immune-suppressing therapy, take medicine to decrease stomach acid level, or have had recent stomach surgery are also at a higher risk of complications from vibrio.

If you are at an increased risk, experts recommend taking additional precautions, including wearing clothes and shoes that can protect you from cuts and scrapes when in brackish or salt water and wearing protective gloves when handling raw seafood.

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