Vibriosis Fact Sheet

Reviewed: March 2023

What is vibriosis?

Vibriosis is an illness caused by the Vibrio bacteria species. Illness often occurs from eating raw or undercooked shellfish or by exposing a wound to seawater. Vibrio occurs naturally in saltwater coastal environments and can be found in higher concentrations from May to October when the weather is warmer. Infection with vibriosis can cause a range of symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, and vomiting, fever, chills, ear infections and wound infections.

Who gets vibriosis?

Anyone can get vibriosis, however people with liver disease, cancer or a weakened immune system (especially those with chronic liver disease) or people taking medicine to decrease stomach acid levels may be more likely to get infection or develop complications when infected.

How is vibriosis spread?

The most common sources of infection are consuming raw or undercooked shellfish or wounds exposed to contaminated coastal environments or from handling raw shellfish.

What are the symptoms of vibriosis and when do they appear?

Symptoms of vibriosis can vary depending on the species. Common symptoms include watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, fever, chills. Ear and wound infections often appear red, swollen and painful. Symptoms usually appear within 12-24 hours and can last 1-7 days. Most people infected with vibriosis will recover on their own; however, severe illness may result in hospitalization or death.

How is vibriosis diagnosed?

Vibriosis is diagnosed by laboratory tests which can identify Vibrio bacteria in stool (poop), wound, or blood samples.

What is the treatment for vibriosis?

People infected with vibriosis should drink plenty of fluids since diarrhea can cause dehydration (loss of water from the body). In severe or lengthy cases involving, ear or wound infections, antibiotics are sometimes prescribed.

What can be done to help prevent vibriosis?

To help prevent vibriosis, avoid eating raw or undercooked shellfish, such as oysters. People with a weakened immune system or liver disease are at increased risk. People with a wound, such as a cut or scrape, recent piercing or tattoo, should avoid exposing it to warm seawater in coastal environments and/or cover the wound with a waterproof bandage. Wear gloves when handling raw shellfish and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water when finished.