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This section is designed for health care professionals to learn more about Vibrio vulnificus infection, its public health impact, and how to diagnose, treat, and prevent infection, especially in high-risk patients.


Vibrio vulnificus is a naturally occurring marine bacterium. It can cause a fulminant and life-threatening illness in patients with the following conditions:

  • Liver disease

  • Alcoholism

  • Diabetes

  • Gastric disorders

  • Cancer


  • Hemochromatosis/hemolytic anemia

  • Chronic renal failure

  • Other conditions that result in immunosuppression

Micrograph of V. vulnificus baterium (Image source CDC/ Janice Haney Carr, via Wikimedia Commons)

Health Care Providers

> Introduction


High-Risk Patients

Modes of Infection


Public Health Impact






Immediate treatment of high-risk patients is necessary to prevent death. Educating high-risk patients about how to avoid infection can save lives.


​Vibrio vulnificus infection can occur from exposing open wounds or sores to seawater or by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, especially oysters.

Symptoms of infection may be vague or include:

  • Gastroenteritis/abdominal pain

  • Fever/chills

  • Hemorrhagic bullous skin lesions on trunk or extremities that develop into necrotic ulcers

  • Septicemia

  • Hypotension

  • Shock


Healthy patients are not at risk for serious illness but may experience severe cellulitis from wound infection or gastroenteritis from eating raw shellfish, especially oysters.

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Page last updated: July 7, 2017

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