Hampton Roads death blamed on waterborne bacteria

HAMPTON, Va. -- A person in Hampton Roads has died of an infection from a waterborne bacteria called Vibrio, according to WTKR. The person's name has not yet been released.

Vibrio is a naturally-occurring bacteria found in warm salt or brackish waters.

It can make people sick if they eat raw or undercooked shellfish or if an open cut or wound comes into contact with water.

So far this year, nine people in Hampton Roads have reported illnesses to the Virginia Department of Health.

"Getting help quickly gives you a better chance for it not going into your bloodstream and not becoming very serious," said Nancy Lemis, an epidemiologist from the Department of Health.

If people eat contaminated shellfish, symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

If the bacteria gets into the bloodstream, symptoms can be severe and include fever and chills, decreased blood pressure, and blisters.

People with weakened immune symptoms are particularly vulnerable.

Phillip Lamb said he was in the water in Mathews County last year when he was stung by a stingray.

He said the wound developed into sores infected with Vibrio.

"It's scary to look down at your foot and wonder if you're going to be able to keep your foot," Lamb told WTKR.

After about a year of treatment, he said the wound has mostly healed, but some complications remain.

"I often wondered whether it was going to ever get better," he said.

Health officials say it is rare for a serious infection to come from Vibrio, but people need to take the risk seriously. "It's very, very important that you don't just put it off," said Lemis. "Don't put it off. Go to your doctor right away and don't wait until it gets really bad."

More information is available from the Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.