Health authorities in Texas have issued a warning after a man died of a rare infection from eating raw oysters.

The unidentified man in his 30s, who had underlying health conditions, died in Galveston County after contracting Vibrio vulnificus infection, which is transmitted through consumption of raw or undercooked oysters or other shellfish, officials said.

"He was taking some drugs that made him immunosuppressed. He also had problems with his liver," Dr. Philip Keiser, with the Galveston County Health District, told ABC 13. "The conditions that he had really predisposed him to an overwhelming infection."

What is Vibrio vulnificus?

Vibrio vulnificus is a rare infection that affects around 100 to 200 people every year in the U.S. The bacteria that cause fatal infection usually enter the human body through raw or undercooked shellfish or open wounds.

Some people with the infection may lose their limbs to amputations as it can lead to necrotizing fasciitis, a condition in which the flesh around the open wound dies. It may escalate within one or two days and even turn fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the fatality rate of the infection is 20%.

The risk of infection is high for people with liver disease or those who are on medications that lower their ability to fight infections.

Signs of the infection

  • Fever and chills
  • Swollen and painful rash
  • Large, painful, fluid-filled blisters on the skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness, fainting or weakness
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heartbeat


You cannot decide if an oyster is infected with the bacteria from the look or taste of it. While most cases of infection occur during warmer months, the risk exists in all seasons. The best way to ensure safety is by cooking them thoroughly before consumption.

It is better to avoid entering saltwater if there are open wounds on the body. Washing wounds after contact with salt water or raw seafood and covering them with a waterproof bandage could prevent the bacteria from entering the body.

Diagnosis and treatment

Vibrio vulnificus infection can be diagnosed by testing blood, stool, sputum and tissue or fluid from a wound. Early diagnosis and treatments using antibiotics can help prevent the infection from spreading and avoid life-threatening situations. Oxygen therapy, medication to treat low blood pressure and amputations are also needed in some cases.