Due to the population’s propensity for consuming seafood, Vibrio parahaemolyticus has been a major cause of food borne illness in Japan for decades.

Some history

Vibrio parahaemolyticus was first recognized as a cause of foodborne illness in the 1950s

What is Vibrio parahaemolyticus, and where is its natural habitat?

Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a gram negative bacterium that is shaped like a curved rod. It is able to grow either with or without oxygen, is sensitive to cold temperatures, and can grow in the presence of high levels of salt. The microbe can be found in warm coastal waters all over the world. Its geographic distribution has spread in recent years, due to a rise in coastal ocean temperatures.

How is Vibrio parahaemolyticus transmitted? What is the incubation period of the illness?

Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections are transmitted through the consumption of raw or undercooked seafood. The typical incubation period is from 2 hours to 48 hours.

What are the symptoms of Vibrio parahaemolyticus food poisoning?

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and watery diarrhea.

What is the prognosis of Vibrio parahaemolyticus food poisoning?

Symptoms of a Vibrio parahaemolyticus infection usually last 2 to 5 days. The illness is self-limiting in most cases, but individuals who suffer from certain diseases or whose immune systems are weak may be at risk of complications such as septicemia.

What foods carry Vibrio parahaemolyticus?

Vibrio parahaemolyticus can be present in coastal ocean waters and in seafood. As the microbe is sensitive to cold, fish and shellfish that have been frozen are at lower risk of transmitting the pathogen. The highest risk is from freshly harvested marine fish and shellfish that are consumed, raw or undercooked, soon after harvest.

How can people protect themselves from Vibrio parahaemolyticus?

First, by paying attention to food recall announcements and immediately discarding any recalled food or returning it to the store. Secondly, by not consuming raw or undercooked seafood.

For more information on Vibrio parahaemolyticus and other food-borne pathogens, visit the CDC website or read Food Safety: Old Habits, New Perspectives.

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