Vibrio is bacteria that thrives on raw shellfish, afflicting nearly 52,000 people a year who consume it through contaminated food in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most vibriosis occurrences are individual cases rather than being part of an outbreak. If you have bought or been served food that was infected with vibrio then you might have the right to compensation for the suffering you’ve endured. Talk to an accomplished vibrio lawyer at The Lange Law Firm, PLLC today.
Vibriosis is an intestinal disease that an estimated 80,000 people endure each year, as reported by the CDC. 52,000 of those cases are brought on by contaminated food.
Most of the contaminated food cases reported as individual occurrences and are not part of an outbreak. Some may have been a part of a limited outbreak that happened locally. Since 2006, there have only been three outbreaks that took place across multiple states. Most recently, is the outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus that developed in July of this year and has been linked to fresh crab meat imported from Venezuela. So far, it has affected the states of Maryland, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. There have been 12 reported illnesses, 4 hospitalizations, and 0 deaths. The investigation is still ongoing.
The prevalence of Vibrio infections in the United States does appear to be increasing in recent years. Increased water temperature combined with salinity where shellfish are harvested may be contributing to the increased contamination rates of shellfish. The concentration of vibrio bacteria also increases, in the coastal waters where they reside, between the months of May and October due to the water temperatures naturally rising. The CDC notes that 80% of infections occur during those months.
Vibrio bacteria live on raw and undercooked shellfish, you can contract food poisoning when you eat the infected food. Oysters are particularly known for causing this type of illness. Cross-contaminating other food with the raw juice from shellfish can also spread the infection. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, most outbreaks have occurred because of unsafe food practices. Unsafe practices such as not storing seafood at cold enough temperatures or letting seafood come into contact with other raw seafood or unclean surfaces or utensils. Too high of temperatures and an unsanitary kitchen is a perfect environment for the growth of bacteria, which will cause the spread of food poisoning.
Before even being caught or gathered, seafood may already be contaminated with high amounts of bacteria.
There are around 12 different species of Vibrio than can cause humans to become sick with vibriosis. The CDC states that the most common species that are affecting the U.S. include:
Vibrio parahaemolyticus is responsible for 45,000 of the 80,000 vibriosis cases that are occurring each year. These three strains, in addition to causing food poisoning, can also cause a skin infection if an open wound is exposed to it by way of salt water or brackish water. Brackish water is typically found where rivers meet the sea and consists of a mixture of fresh and salt water. A hurricane or flood could also expose you to coastal water containing the bacteria, which may lead to infection of a wound if it comes into contact with the water. Ear infections, otitis, can also be a possible effect of vibrio if you go swimming in infected waters.
Another strain of Vibrio bacteria that affects humans, but is not a major health concern in the U.S. is vibrio cholerae. According to the World Health Organization, there are between 1.3 million to 4 million cases of the disease cholera in the world each year and 143,000 fatalities occur due to the illness.
Typically symptoms will begin within 24 hours of ingesting the bacteria and include:
These signs of illness will last around three days. Rarely will the illness turn severe, unless you have a weakened immune system then you are more susceptible to complications.
You should report your Vibrio infection within one working day to (800) 705-8868 or (800) 252-8239, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
If negligent, reckless, or careless actions or inactions by another party were cause for your illness then you may have the grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit against them. You do need to be able to prove that vibrio bacteria is what made you sick though, in order to have a claim. Seeking medical care immediately after food poisoning symptoms begin can help strengthen your case. If a doctor confirms that you have food poisoning, then there is further testing that can be conducted on your request in order to confirm the specific pathogen is vibrio.
If your illness was severe and you contain proof linking your illness to contaminated food you were sold or given, then you may be able to sue for damages. Not only may the restaurant or grocery store be liable, but also the food processor and food distributor. Anyone involved at any point during the chain of distribution could be responsible for the contamination. Damages you may be able seek include:
In the state of Texas, the time limit, or statute of limitations, for filing a personal injury claim is two years from when the injury occurred.
If you find yourself to be one of many vibrio victims then you and all who have suffered from the outbreak have the right to unite and file a class action lawsuit together.
If an outbreak has been infecting people for some time already when you eventually contract vibriosis, then there may already be a class action lawsuit in place that you may choose to join in on. There are several advantages to joining a class action lawsuit, but there can be disadvantages as well. You will likely not have to pay any up front costs out of pocket, the recovery amount is divided evenly among the class of people, and a class action suit may be able to bring about big change. For example, if a large food processor or manufacturer is responsible for harming people by causing the outbreak due to breaking safety rules then an individual case may not have a large effect on their procedures. A class action suit that ends with a considerable payout will likely get the company’s attention and can result in the training/retraining of employees and halting processing in order to clean and disinfect their equipment and facilities. The company may have to make changes to their operating procedures company-wide.
A class action lawsuit could even bring about industry-wide changes to procedures.
Disadvantages of joining a class action lawsuit include relinquishing all control over how the suit is handled, what settlement is reached, and you will be receiving the same amount of the settlement as everyone else involved even if the extent of your illness was far worse and caused more damage than what others experienced.
Seek legal counsel from a qualified vibrio lawyer to discuss whether it is advisable for you to join a class action lawsuit or if you should seek individual justice.
Speaking to an experienced Vibrio attorney as soon as possible, whether you believe you have a case or feel unsure, can prove to be very beneficial for you. A qualified lawyer will evaluate your case and the facts surrounding it, then can advise you as to whether or not it is worth your time pursuing. You will be given peace of mind either way.
If you do have a case, then hiring an attorney with extensive experience to advocate for you is a must as these types of cases can be long and complex. A Vibrio lawyer will be knowledgeable of and can advise you on what the personal injury laws are in Texas, as well as what components will need to be proven in order for your case to be successful. Having an attorney’s network of expert witnesses at your disposal can be crucial to your case. Experts in the following fields will be required to help in proving fault: agriculture, food safety, microbiology, and medicine.
The sooner you hire an attorney, the sooner they can begin their own investigation and preserve evidence for your claim.
We, at The Lange Law Firm, PLLC, are an experienced group of vibrio lawyers who care about our clients and passionately advocate on their behalf. If you or a loved one has suffered from vibriosis, speak with us or have your potential food poisoning case evaluated at no cost to you. Please fill out our free, no risk case evaluation form or call to talk with an attorney today.