Death Tied to Bacteria In Raw Oysters: Here’s What You Need to Know

Seafood lovers across the country are concerned following news that a woman in Louisiana died after eating raw oysters.

Back in September, Jeanette LeBlanc, a Texas native, vacationed on the Louisiana coast with her wife Vicki Bergquist. At a local seafood restaurant, the couple enjoyed raw oysters. Along with a friend, LeBlanc and her wife shucked and consumed about two dozen raw oysters.

Within 36 hours of that meal, LeBlanc began to exhibit some very unusual and distressing symptoms, including a rash on her legs and difficulty breathing. At first, LeBlanc assumed she was having an allergic reaction to the seafood she consumed, but the truth was much more devastating.

Getty, Ilya S. Savenok

Doctors diagnosed LeBlanc with vibriosis, a disease caused by the Vibrio bacteria. Vibrio occurs naturally in coastal waters but can make humans seriously ill. After a three week battle against the disease, LeBlanc died in October 2017.

What To Know About Vibrio

Vibriosis is most often caused by consuming raw or undercooked seafood. It can also be contracted from skin exposure to the bacteria, such as if you swim or fish with an open cut. (For example, a woman in Alabama died last year after fishing with live shrimp, as she was touching the raw seafood when she had a minor cut on her hand, which allowed the bacteria to enter her bloodstream).

Vibrio is most often present between May until October, when when the weather is warm. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 80,000 people become ill with vibroisis each year, more than half of which come from eating contaminated food.

However, this number could grow in the future, as rising ocean temperatures could mean that the Vibrio bacteria will flourish and spread at an increased rate. It’s just one of the many ways that global warming could make you sick, experts warn.

There are several strains of the Vibrio bacteria, but the Vibrio vulnificus strain is reportedly to blame for these recent deaths. “Most Vibrio infections from oysters result in only diarrhea and vomiting,” the CDC explained. “However, some infections, such as those caused by Vibrio vulnificus, can cause more severe illness, including bloodstream infections and severe blistering skin lesions.”

Some Vibrio vulnificus infections will require a limb amputation and as many as 30 percent of infections are fatal.

Getty, Ilya S. Savenok

So does this mean that you should stop eating raw seafood? Perhaps. Or at least proceed with informed caution, especially when it comes to oysters.

Food-poisoning attorney Bill Marler told BottomLineInc that he will never eat oysters. “Oysters are filter feeders, so they pick up everything that’s in the water. If there’s bacteria in the water it’ll get into their system, and if you eat it you could have trouble,” he explainned. “I’ve seen a lot more of that over the last five years than I saw in the last 20 years. It’s simply not worth the risk.”

Good to know.

[H/t: Business Insider]