A relatively fit 81-year-old Caucasian male died on Friday, 5 February 2016 after swimming in the Kaaimans River and died within 72 hours, after admission to the George Medi-Clinic Hospital.
Microbiological testing of the wound area of the diseased confirmed that the bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus was present. According to the CDC in the USA, the mortality rate after Vibrio vulnificus infection is between 36%-50%.
This bacteria is found naturally worldwide in warm coastal waters and there is no association with sewage contamination. Vibrio vulnificus infection is not a notifiable disease in RSA, but in the USA (Atlanta Georgia) is it notifiable.
For the bacteria to increase to the point where it can cause harm to humans, the water temperature should be between 20⁰C and 31⁰C. The salinity of the water should also be not too salty or too fresh, i.e. brackish water normally found around the point of interface between the oceanic water and rivers.
Transmission is from eating raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly oysters harvested from warm waters. Infections may occur when open soft tissue wounds are exposed to warm estuaries (If the person is immune compromised the risk of infection is increased).
The Eden Environmental Health section has indicated that for the time being no beaches will be closed or official warning signage will be erected, their actions will be limited to public awareness and education as well as the inclusion of testing for the bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, as part of their current water sampling program. In addition, they will also focus their sampling on areas where the water temperature, as well as salinity levels, could be conducive to the multiplication of the bacteria Vibrio vulnificus.
For any further information, please contact:
Mr. Clive Africa – Executive Manager: Community Services, contact number 083 253 3928 or Mr. Johan Compion – Manager: Municipal Health and Environmental Services, contact number 082 803 5161.