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Published On: Thu, Oct 17th, 2013

Cholera confirmed in South Carolina, linked to eating raw shellfish

At least three people in South Carolina have been confirmed positive for the bacterium, Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of the gastrointestinal disease, cholera, according to South Carolina health officials Wednesday.

It is being reported that the three individuals contracted the infection from eating raw shellfish.

Vibrio cholerae Image/CDC/ Janice Carr

Vibrio cholerae
Image/CDC/ Janice Carr

This has prompted The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to warn the public concerning consuming shellfish.

Myrtle Beach Online reports health officials say there is no evidence that the contaminated shellfish originated in the waters of South Carolina.

According to a DHEC press release sent to The Global Dispatch this morning,  Linda Bell, M.D. and state epidemiologist said , “We are informing health care providers of the situation and will continue to monitor the state for additional cases.”

“The elderly, young and immune compromised are particularly at risk of developing illness from consuming raw shellfish,” said Dr. Bell. “The best way to protect yourself and your family from getting the Vibrio illness is to thoroughly cook all shellfish before eating it.”

DHEC is working with the Food and Drug Administration and other partners to learn the source of the contaminated shellfish.

Cholera is an acute bacterial intestinal disease characterized by sudden onset, profuse watery stools (given the appearance as rice water stools because of flecks of mucus in water) due to a very potent enterotoxin. The enterotoxin leads to an extreme loss of fluid and electrolytes in the production of diarrhea. It has been noted that an untreated patient can lose his bodyweight in fluids in hours resulting in shock and death.

It is caused by the bacterium, Vibrio cholerae. Serogroups O1 and O139 are the types associated with the epidemiological characteristics of cholera (outbreaks).

The bacteria are acquired through ingestion of contaminated water or food through a number of mechanisms. Water is usually contaminated by the feces of infected individuals. Drinking water can be contaminated at the source, during transport or during storage at home. Food can get contaminated by soiled hands, during preparation or while eating.

Beverages and ice prepared with contaminated water and fruits and vegetables washed with this water are other examples. Some outbreaks are linked to raw or undercooked seafood.

The incubation for cholera can be from a few hours to 5 days. As long as the stools are positive, the person is infective. Some patients may become carriers of the organism which can last for months.

Cholera is diagnosed by growing the bacteria in culture. Treatment consists of replacement of fluids lost, intravenous replacement in severe cases. Antibiotic therapy can shorten the course of severe disease.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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