Epidemiology of Vibrio parahaemolyticus in Southern Taiwan, 2004–2013

DOI: 10.6525/TEB.20151124.31(22).001

Chien-Chou Lin, Po-Shan Lin, Li-Li Kou, Yu-Ping Hong, Ho-Sheng Wu

2015 Vol.31 NO.22

Correspondence Author: Chien-Chou Lin

  • Center for Research, Diagnostics and Vaccine Development, Centers for Disease Control, Ministry of Health and Welfare, Taiwan


Vibrio parahaemolyticus has been the ranked first pathogen that causes bacterial foodborne illness in Taiwan for many years. Since V. parahaemolyticus occurs naturally in warm brackish waters, estuaries, and salt marshes, the fish and shellfish insuch environments are easily contaminated with this pathogen. The causes of food poisoning often resulted from eating raw oysters or undercooked fish carrying foodborne pathogens or contamination with pathogens during foodhandling and cooking processes.

Between 2004 and 2013, a total of 7,126 food poisoning outbreaks were reported from southern Taiwan, including Chiayi, Tainan,Kaohsiung, Pingtung and Penhu cities/counties. Of these outbreaks, V. parahaemolyticus was the first leading responsible agent (n = 1,262, 18%). The annual average number of patients affected by V. parahaemolyticus was 126, and the monthly average was about 10.5 (range 5.9–14.3), peaking inAugust. Females (56%) and persons aged 20–44 years (56%) were the most affected group. The prevalence of V.parahaemolyticus infections were 41 per 100,000 population in Pingtung County, followed by 12.6 in Chiayi County, 11.2 in Penhu County, 6.7 in Tainan City, 6.0 in Kaohsiung City, and 3.5 in Chiayi City, respectively. Among the 935 isolates of V. parahaemolyticus, serotype K6 predominated (n = 507, 54%), followed by serotype K8 (n = 147,15%). The surface temperature of the sea water in southern Taiwan, however, ranged 22.0°C –29.8°C, and was never lower than 15°C over the past 10 years.

Despite recent economic growth and improvement in living standards, the food poisoning outbreaks have not decreased. We recommend people working in a food business must follow the business food safety program, including (1) good personal hygiene, such as thoroughly washing and drying hands when handling food; (2)avoidance of cross-contamination, such as keeping raw foods and ready-to-eat foods separate, and using separate, clean utensils, containers and equipment;(3) if staff working in a food handling has gastrointestinal symptoms such asdiarrhea and/or vomiting, the restaurant manager must exclude staff with these symptoms from working with food at least for 48 hours until symptoms diminish; and (4) once a food poisoning outbreak occurs, the health agencies must conduct investigation and identify the suspicious foodborne pathogens to prevent the spreading of illness.

Keywords:Vibrio parahaemolyticus;Serotype K6;Prevalence of Vibrio parahaemolyticus