FDA Issues Raw Oyster Warning After Illnesses

Sep 27, 2011 12:36pm

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned against eating raw oysters from an area of Washington state’s Hood Canal after an outbreak of a bacterial infection.

The FDA linked oysters harvested from what’s known as Area 4 along the canal to three confirmed and two possible cases of illness caused by Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a bacterium often found in coastal marine environments that causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.  There have been no reported deaths or hospitalizations.

Oysters from this area were shipped between Aug. 30 and Sept. 19 to 23 states and four countries, the FDA said.

“Vibrio is in the same family as the organism that causes cholera, but it’s not as potent,” said Dr. William Schaffner, director of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Oysters are one of the most common carriers of this bacterium, Schaffner explained, because of their sieve-like nature.

“They constantly pump water through their bodies and extract nutrients, and they can pick up these bacteria,” he said.

The bacteria often occupy coastal waters, and can also cause other types of illness.

“After Hurricane Katrina, vibrio caused some skin infections in people who went into the water and got cuts and scrapes,” Schaffner said.

The FDA advises people in the affected states to ask where oysters came from and avoid eating any from the impacted harvesting area.   The Washington State Department of Public Health closed Hood Canal Area 4 to harvesting and recalled oysters harvested and shipped between those two-and-a-half weeks.

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