Date: Thu 14 Sep 2017
Source: El Salvador [in Spanish, machine trans. edited]
A report from the Salvadoran Institute of Social Security (ISSS) confirms the deaths of 2 people from an infection caused by the bacterium _Vibrio vulnificus_, caused by eating raw seafood, particularly oysters or by exposing a [wound to] saltwater.
According to the document, which circulated in social networks, and was confirmed by the ISSS, those most vulnerable to the disease are people with liver diseases such as cirrhosis, or those who have a weak immune system because of chronic diseases, or the consumption of medicines that weaken it. The characteristic symptoms of the disease are fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, in addition to the presence of hemorrhagic blisters in the lower limbs of the body.
According to the document, on 8 Aug 2017, they treated a 61-year-old man in the emergency who had fever, diarrhea, red skin on his lower limbs, and, as part of his clinical condition, had liver cirrhosis. The patient died. Two days prior to the appointment, the patient consumed a cocktail of shells with shrimp and crab in a restaurant in Santa Tecla.
The other case was that of a 58-year-old woman, who was treated on 2 Sep 2017 and had 2 days of symptoms. The patient died within a few hours of admission and also had liver cirrhosis. The ISSS, in the same document, explained that it has not reported any more cases of the disease.
The ISSS information on the 2 deaths caused by the bacterium _Vibrio vulnificus_ has caused alarm among the population, but infectious diseases physicians affirmed that the country is not facing an epidemic or recommending a stoppage in consuming seafood because there are not a lot of cases. Dr. Jorge Panameno, after asking the population to keep calm, said that it is not a new bacterial agent but one that is already widely known in the country and has occasionally caused deaths here. He said that the bacterium, which is usually present in sea water, is only serious in people who have a weakened immune system because of chronic diseases such as cirrhosis, diabetes, insufficiency in kidney function disease, patients with heart problems, or with HIV.
"Two things are important to consider in relation to the Social Security document: 1st it was 2 people who have 2 characteristics in common, that both consumed uncooked shellfish (which had the bacterium); and 2nd, perhaps more relevant, is that they were 2 patients suffering from liver cirrhosis, or a debilitating chronic disease, which is where it has been known for a long time that is going to cause the worst damage, "he said. The specialist said that, in fact, the cases of people affected by infection because of this bacterium are seen sporadically in private practice, one or 2 a year.
He also explained that when a person ingests the bacterium, it usually presents with fevers, chills, diarrhea, nausea, and when they acquire it through a skin lesion, it starts to redden and blister. "I have had a few cases over the years, the last one I had was a patient who pricked himself with the shell of a crab ... It gave him (the disease), and he survived."
One of the doctors said, while emphasizing that this infection is considered a professional disease in fishermen: "The bacterium is present, particularly in climates like ours; it will be part of the flora that is in the water of the sea and of the rivers," he said. [Byline: Violeta Rivas, Susana Joma]
[_Vibrio vulnificus_ infections are not frequently reported from Central or South America but do occur there. The following is extracted from Heng S-P Letchumanan V, Deng C-Y: Vibrio vulnificus: An Environmental and Clinical Burden. Front Microbiol. 2017; 8: 997 doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2017.00997:
"_V. vulnificus infections have been reported in diverse climate zones throughout the world including Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Spain, Turkey, Holland, Belgium, Israel, Italy, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, India, Thailand, Australia, and Brazil (Oliver et al., 1983; Dalsgaard et al., 1996; Bisharat et al., 1999; Torres et al., 2002; Oliver, 2006a,b, 2013; Patridge et al., 2009; Huehn et al., 2014; Karunasagar, 2014). This bacterium is commonly found in seafood samples with studies having reported that 3.5-8 percent of seafood samples in Europe, 2.4 percent of shrimp from Southeast Asia, 75 percent of freshly harvested oysters in India and 100 percent of oysters harvested from the Gulf of Mexico during warm months (May to October) contained _V. vulnificus_. (Jones, 2014). Further, analysis of 180 cases in FDA records between 2002 and 2007 have shown that raw oysters is the main source of infection in the USA with 92.8 percent of infected patients having consumed raw oysters. Studies have shown that there are 95 cases reported with 85 hospitalizations and 35 deaths per year globally (CDC, 2013)."
There are 2 points to be emphasized: that vibrios are normal flora in warm saltwater (not indicative of any sewage contamination) and that most of the life-threatening illnesses occur in individuals with underlying medical illnesses, including immunocompromised states, chronic liver disease, and diabetes. So-called normal individuals often just get gastroenteritis.
It is not clear that the woman in this post had any well-defined risk factors. The range of disease due to _V. vulnificus_ can involve more northern geographical areas if the area is affected by a substantial heat wave. - ProMed Mod.LL]
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