Man dies from bacterial infection from Vibrio vulnificus in raw oysters

- A man who ate raw oysters at a Florida restaurant has died after contracting an infection from the Vibrio vulnificus bacteria, health officials say.

The 71-year-old man ate the oysters on July 8 at a Sarasota restaurant, which health officials did not identify, and died two days later. "We have an individual that consumed some raw oysters and to the best of our knowledge had no exposure to salt water, became severely ill, and passed away," said Michael Drennon, Disease Intervention Services Program Manager at the Sarasota County Health Dept.

Health officials say the bacteria can be found anywhere in salt water at any time and can also be found in raw or undercooked shell fish. "We tell everybody regardless of age or immune status that they should avoid eating raw or undercooked shell fish or seafood or avoid or being in the salt water when they have an open wound or lesion on their body," Drennon said. 

Common symptoms are fever, diarrhea and vomiting which can progress severely and quickly to the point of hospitalization, Drennon said. In rare cases, the bacteria can become "flesh eating disease." "That's usually not the case when someone consumes the bacteria," Drennon said. "Usually their symptoms are more gastrointestinal."  

Health officials are investigating and working with the restaurant to collect as much information as possible, they said. 

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