Home » Projects & Issues » Local Issues and Information » Vibrio Bacteria information

Vibrio Bacteria information

What is vibrio?

Vibrio bacteria species occur naturally in estuaries and usually are harmless to humans. A small portion, however, can cause serious food-borne illness or wound infections. The species Vibrio vulnificus is the most lethal of these and the #1 cause of shellfish-associated fatalities in the U.S

Under high magnification, this digitally-colorized image depicts a grouping of Vibrio vulnificus bacteria. Photo credit: CDC

Where is it found?

A 2019 article in Time magazine provided information on increasing cases of people being infected by the bacteria farther north than previous years. Historically, in the U.S., V. vulnificus bacteria have mostly been found in the southeastern part of the country. But as sea surface temperatures rise, cases of V. vulnificus infections are becoming more common in places that used to be too cold for them to be common. Recent research at the Univ. of DE shows that Vibrio bacteria may become more abundant in the Bays when some types of algae bloom in response to excess nutrients in the water.

A recent report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine links five recent cases of Vibrio vulnificus to the Delaware Bay, bordered by New Jersey and Delaware. As of June 2019, no cases of V. vulnificus have been reported in the Delaware Inland Bays.

Take common-sense precautions.

There is no need to avoid the water, but take precautions to ensure your safe enjoyment of water recreation.

  • Wounds and water don’t mix- do not go into the water with a cut or open wound.
  • If you do get cut, wash and disinfect the wound; see a doctor immediately if there is any sign of or concern about infection.
  • Pay attention to beach closures and do not harvest shellfish from prohibited areas.
  • Cooking seafood kills associated bacteria. Do not consume raw oysters or clams if you are in a high-risk group (immune-compromised, liver disease, cancer, etc.)


Additional Resources

Vibrio vulnificus Information

CDC information on vibriosis