In July of 2012, the New York State Department of Health issued a Health Advisory related to an increase in the number of cases of infection due to Vibrio parahaemolyticus diagnosed in NY.
Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a naturally occurring marine bacterium generally associated with warm water conditions. Infection is acquired through ingestion of raw or undercooked seafood, exposure of wounds to estuarine water (e.g. in boating accidents), rinsing with contaminated water, or occupational wounds (i.e., oystershuckers and fishermen).
When ingested, V. parahaemolyticus causes watery diarrhea often with abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills. The onset of illness may occur within hours to four days after exposure. Most episodes of illness are self-limited and do not require treatment other than oral or intravenous electrolyte therapy. However, the infection can result in life-threatening sepsis in patients with underlying liver disease and those with immune disorders.
At-risk patients should be reminded that the consumption of raw or undercooked seafood can result in serious illness, including death. Health care providers should suspect Vibrio parahaemolyticus when evaluating cases of gastroenteritis and cases of sepsis in patients with liver disease or a compromised immune system. In such cases, it is important to inquire about food history, water exposures and travel in the four days prior to onset. Since Vibrio species require selective culture media (thiosulfate-citrate-bile salts-sucrose agar) for isolation, they are not usually recovered by laboratories culturing for routine enteric pathogens.
Like in a majority of cases of infectious diarrhea, treatment is not necessary in most cases of V. parahaemolyticus infection. There is no evidence that antibiotic treatment decreases the severity or length of the illness. Patients should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluids lost through diarrhea. In severe or prolonged illnesses, antibiotics such as tetracycline or ciprofloxacin can be used. The choice of antibiotics should be based on the antimicrobial susceptibilities of the organism.