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News - Warning on Vibrio (July 2022)

Our friends at the Maryland Charter Boat Association have shared a recent encounter with Vibrio bacteria, an infection that can prove fatal in just a few days.  Awareness is the first step in prevention -- take a few minutes to review the warning and photos below.


Warning on Vibrio

One of our members asked me to send out a warning on Vibrio, which is a naturally-occurring bacteria in brackish waters such as those under your keels. Please take a few minutes to read his recent experience with this bacteria, word for word, except for his identity.

"I run XYZ Charters and want to let everyone know about the Vibrio bacteria and how dangerous it is. My Dad who is my mate got it recently and spent several days in shock trauma. It is a life threatening flesh eating bacteria found in our waters but more prevalent as water warms. He has a very long road ahead of him, lucky to be alive and still have his arm.

Yesterday I had a small scratch on my knuckle that quickly became infected. Knowing what happened to my father I quickly came to the hospital and was also diagnosed with Vibrio and admitted on antibiotics. They are hopeful I will not need surgery but my Dad has skin graphs starting Friday.

They say this is very rare but I am starting to wonder. Shock trauma doc said 50% of those that get this don‘t survive mainly because of delay in treatment. Please be careful out there, this is no joke! If you have any doubts about a cut or scrape, go to the ER. I have attached a pic of my finger and my father’s arm." (photos below)

Distribution and abundance of Vibrio can be predicted by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. Unfortunately for us, Vibrio is most abundant in warm waters from Smith Point to Love Point (especially the Choptank River). Their "Probability of Vibrio in Chesapeake Bay" distribution map can be found here .

From "Five facts about Vibrio" - a fact sheet by the Chesapeake Bay Program... There are steps you can take to protect yourself from Vibrio

While the risk of contracting Vibrio can never be completely eliminated, there are some simple rules you can follow to avoid your risk of infection by these bacteria:

  • Avoid swimming in the Bay for 48 hours after rainfall. In the days following a rainfall, bacteria levels increase dramatically as a result of stormwater runoff. If you are unsure as to what this means for your local waterways, consult the Vibrio forecast map. 
  • Avoid raw and undercooked shellfish. Get creative with your oyster recipes. Among Vibrio patients with illnesses linked to oyster consumption, 89% reported to have consumed their oysters raw. You can ensure that your favorite shellfish are safe to eat by broiling, baking, frying or even grilling them at appropriate temperatures before you eat them. Rather than limit your oyster consumption, the summer can afford you the opportunity to introduce some new flavors to your plate. 
  • Do not swim with open wounds, scratches or ear infections. If this is not possible, cover wounds securely with a waterproof bandage.
  • Wear protective equipment. When handling raw shellfish or going for a swim, wear water shoes and gloves to decrease your chance of incurring a wound.
  • Pack antibiotic ointment or hand sanitizer. There is no telling when a wound might occur. Always have easy access to antibiotic ointment or hand sanitizer to immediately treat a wound and greatly decrease the risk of infection.
  • Shower and wash your hands. The best way to stay clear of any illness is to stay clean, and this goes for avoiding Vibrio, too. Be sure to shower as soon as possible after swimming in the Bay and its tributaries. Wash your hands before handling food, especially shellfish.



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