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The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have reported a multi-state outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections caused by contaminated crab meat imported from Venezuela.  The CDC has confirmed that 12 individuals across 4 states have contracted the infection from the contaminated crab meat, with 3 individuals requiring hospitalization.  The CDC has issued a warning to avoid eating crab meat from Venezuela until the warning is removed and to avoid eating crab meat unless certain of the origin. Preventative measures also include careful washing of surfaces and utensils that may come into contact with crab meat.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections cause gastroenteritis, typically from eating contaminated food. It is important to note that Vibrio parahaemolyticus, while in the same family, is different from Vibrio cholera, which causes cholera.  The incubation time of Vibrio parahaemolyticus ranges from 4 hours to 4 days. Symptoms include abdominal cramping, watery diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Only about 25% of patients have a fever.  More rarely, individuals can develop dysentery, which is a more severe type of gastroenteritis characterized by bloody or mucous-containing stools, and more severe gastroenteritis symptoms.  The symptoms typically last about 3 days following onset.

Individuals with Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections require aggressive fluid repletion to avoid dehydration. As with many other types of enteritis, the role for treatment with antibiotics is unclear.  This decision is made on an individualized basis and often the severity of the disease is taken into consideration.  Unlike cholera, most cases of Vibrio parahaemolyticus-associated enteritis are self-limited, with death being rare.  Individuals at highest risk for complications from the infection include those that are immunocompromised, have diabetes, pre-existing liver disease, or are at extremes of age.

Read more:

Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20e: Chapter 163: Cholera and Other Vibrioses

FDA Outbreak Advisory

CDC: Vibrio Species Causing Vibriosis

Julie Grishaw, ACNP

Senior Editor, McGraw-Hill Education