Two Connecticut residents died earlier this summer from infections linked to a bacterium found in raw shellfish and ocean water, state health officials confirmed Tuesday. A third resident was also infected.
The victims, between the ages of 60 and 80, are known to be infected with Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium of marine origin that causes life-threatening wound infections, the state Department of Public Health said Tuesday.
The bacterium does not make shellfish, such as oysters, smell or look different, making it difficult to detect.
The state Bureau of Aquaculture said it does not believe any of the infections are related to Connecticut shellfish.
The health department said two of the three cases were wound infections not associated with shellfish.
The third infection was in a resident who ate raw oysters at an out-of-state establishment.
The Connecticut Department of Health confirmed two deaths in July from Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium that enters the body when you eat raw or undercooked shellfish but can also infect open wounds.
Both deaths occurred in July. The department said this is the first time Connecticut has seen a Vibrio vulnificus case in three years.
Vibrio vulnificus enters the body when you eat raw or undercooked shellfish, but it can also infect open wounds.
The infection is rare, with only 100 to 200 cases reported in the US each year.
Symptoms appear suddenly, according to the Cleveland Clinic, usually 24 hours after coming into contact with the bacteria. Symptoms include fever, chills, redness or rash on the skin, fluid-filled blisters, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, confusion, and fast heart rate.
Vibrio vulnificus infection can quickly lead to sepsis, an extreme reaction to infection, resulting in tissue and organ closure.
Symptoms can be a lot like the flu, so watch for a very high or low temperature, sweating, extreme pain, clammy skin, dizziness, nausea, high heart rate, slurred speech and confusion, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If left untreated, sepsis is fatal.
It affects 1.7 million Americans each year, according to the CDC, and kills 350,000 a year.
State health officials said the bacteria has never been found in state waste and most infections are linked to shellfish from much warmer waters. The agency also said the state regularly tests for bacteria.
Since 2014, the state has also added requirements designed to chill oysters to the point where the bacteria cannot survive, the department said.
In high-risk areas, the harvested oysters are immediately placed in an ice slurry.
In lower risk areas, harvesters must refrigerate or freeze all oysters within five hours of harvest.