Panama City -- The Bay County Health Department is announcing a fatal case of Vibrio Vulnificus. Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that normally lives in warm seawater. It is not a result of pollution, but is considered part of the normal bacteria for any salt water or brackish water environment.
Exposure can occur through ingestion of raw fish, oysters, or other raw shellfish. It is less commonly absorbed through wounds contaminated with sea water.
In people with a healthy liver and a healthy immune system, this germ usually causes diarrhea. However, infections can be fatal for people with liver disease or diseases such as diabetes or HIV. People taking immune suppressive medications such as prednisone, Remicaid, and cyclosporine are also at increased risk.
Because of the high risk to persons with liver disease or immune suppression, businesses serving or selling raw shellfish are legally required to post a warning that ingestion of raw shellfish can be hazardous. Unfortunately, the individual, who was reported to be in one of the high risk groups, ignored the warning posted in the establishment, and died of exposure to the bacteria.
The germ itself dies when exposed to temperatures exceeding 160 degrees, so cooked fish and shellfish usually do not pose a hazard.