North Carolina

Person cleaned crabs and then fell ill within hours, NC health officials say

A North Carolina man was cleaning crabs before he got sick with vibrio, officials say.
A North Carolina man was cleaning crabs before he got sick with vibrio, officials say. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

An 84-year-old became seriously sick with an infection that recently killed a North Carolina man, a news outlet reports.

Health officials say the person, who has not been publicly identified, got infected with vibrio, a bacteria found in salty water and often linked to shellfish.

Symptoms came just 16 hours after the person was cleaning crabs, Ann Pike, nursing supervisor for the Jones County Health Department, wrote Wednesday in an email. The non-fatal case is still under investigation, she says.

Though health officials didn’t release the name of the infected person, WCTI identified him as Otis Bell.

He was rushed into surgery “to save his arm,” which had turned black, the station reports. After the Sept. 16 ordeal, he was in the intensive care unit for three weeks, according to WCTI.

The report comes just days after a Cary man died from vibrio vulnificus, a species often associated with raw and undercooked shellfish, according to The News & Observer. The contaminated oysters he ate before his death weren’t connected to the state’s coast, news outlets reported at the time.

So how can you reduce your risk of becoming sick?

“Most infections caused by Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio vulnificus in the United States can be prevented by thoroughly cooking seafood, especially oysters,” the NC Department of Health and Human Services says.

Vibrio infections from food can lead to “diarrhea, often accompanied by abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People can also get infected when open wounds touch salty water, state health officials say.

Nationally, most vibrio infections happen from May to October, with about 80,000 total cases each year, the CDC says. People with weakened immune systems are most at risk of getting seriously sick, officials say.

In North Carolina, officials didn’t say whether the person cleaning the crabs got injured. Jones County is near the coast and close to the cities of Jacksonville and New Bern.

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