WARNING: Killer bacteria in Texas coastal waters


Health officials say a person died last month after becoming infected with bacteria while wade fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. (MGN Online)

Warm weather brings a whole new batch of risks when trying to enjoy the coastal waters.

One of them is the higher risk of marine water-related infections, including those caused by the Vibrio bacteria which are naturally found in coastal water.

People can become ill after eating raw or undercooked contaminated seafood, particularly oysters, or when a person has an open wound that is exposed to seawater. Illness due to eating raw or undercooked seafood usually includes gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, fever, and chills. These symptoms frequently occur within 24 hours of eating and last approximately three days.

Wound infections can cause redness, swelling, large blisters on the skin, skin ulcers, and, in serious cases, may even lead to limb amputation or death. People with a weakened immune system, liver disease, diabetes, cancer, or other chronic diseases or who have decreased gastric acidity are at highest risk for severe illness.

People who develop a skin infection or gastrointestinal symptoms that may be due to Vibrio bacteria should contact their medical provider immediately.

Health officials say a person died last month after becoming infected with bacteria while wade fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

They said that the person was hospitalized with severe leg pain after going into the water with skin tears. Measures taken to fight the infection included amputation.

Texas has averaged 90 Vibrio infections per year for the last 10 years.

DSHS recommends the following precautions to reduce the risk of infection:

  • People with pre-existing wounds, including cuts, scrapes, fresh tattoos, blisters, or bites, should avoid contact with seawater and any kind of raw seafood.
  • People with a weakened immune system should wear protective water shoes.
  • If a wound is exposed to seawater or raw seafood, thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water, and see a medical provider if the area begins to look infected.
  • Do not eat raw shellfish, especially oysters; cook seafood thoroughly.
  • Wear protective clothing like gloves when handling raw seafood.
  • Keep raw seafood separate from other food to avoid cross-contamination, immediately clean up raw seafood spills with hot, soapy water, and thoroughly wash hands, utensils and surfaces after preparing or handling raw seafood.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says vibriosis causes an estimated 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths each year in the U.S.