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Flesh-eating bacteria linked to Bellevue fish market

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SEATTLE – A woman is recovering at home after catching a flesh-eating bacteria while preparing fish she bought at a Bellevue market. King County Health Investigators say on November 10th the woman was diagnosed with a rare infection caused by the bacteria Vibrio vulnificus.

Investigators believe the likely source of the infection was from tilapia bought from the Asian Food Center, located at 14509 NE 20th St. in Bellevue.

Health officials advise that anyone who has eaten or prepared fish from the Asian Food Center before November 17 should be watchful for symptoms of infection for 7 days, and people who purchased fish from this location should discard the fish.

Who is at risk

It is important to seek medical care right away if you’ve handled or eaten fish from the Asian Food Center AND within seven days you develop:

  • a new skin infection (signs of skin infection are redness, tenderness, swelling, streaking and skin blisters)
  • fever and chills
  • diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
  • any unexplained serious illness

The risk of infection if you ate or handled fish from this location and have no illness after seven days is low.

Certain people are at higher risk for Vibrio vulnificus infection. These include:

  • people with weakened immune systems
  • people with liver disease, including from alcoholism
  • diabetics
  • people with HIV
  • people who take medications to lower stomach acid or who take immune-suppressing medications

“Persons who prepared or consumed fish of any kind from this location should contact their healthcare provider if they develop signs of skin infection, fever, chills, or diarrhea in the seven days after contact with the fish,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “At this time, there is no known risk for people who have not been in contact with fish from this location, but people should always take precautions when handling raw seafood.”

The health department says the woman likely got the infection when she was preparing the tilapia and cut her finger, allowing the bacteria from the fish to enter and infect the wound.

Public heath officials are testing samples of the fish and fish tanks at the Asian Food Center. The investigation focuses on tilapia, but they are also looking into the possibility that other seafood may have been contaminated. All tilapia and other fish processed at the Bellevue Asian Food Center were disposed of, and the tanks and other equipment were decommissioned until they can be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Vibriosis causes an estimated 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths in the United States every year. People with vibriosis become infected by consuming raw or undercooked seafood or exposing a wound to seawater. Most infections occur from May through October when water temperatures are warmer.