This week, Washington state and county health officials have issued warnings about illnesses caused by the consumption of raw or undercooked oysters. The Washington State Department of Health issued a news release Tuesday that said over 40 people throughout the state have fallen ill with vibriosis this year. Vibriosis is an infection caused by the bacteria Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which grows and thrives in warm water and flourishes in mid-day low tides. Shellfish that are harvested during these warm summer months must be fully cooked before eaten, according to the health department.
Vibriosis symptoms include nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and chills and become apparent approximately 12 to 24 hours after consumption of infected shellfish. The symptoms can last up to five days, while people with weaker immune systems, chronic liver disease, and patients who take antacids can become more seriously ill. Jerrod Davis, director of the state’s Office of Shellfish and Water Protection stated that having a warm summer this year has increased the risk of people becoming ill from eating raw shellfish. “It’s much safer to eat cooked oysters, especially this time of year.”
The press release from the department of health stated that recreational harvesters must take extra precautions when gathering these summer oysters. They should be put on ice or refrigerated as soon as possible after collection. The shellfish should be harvested as soon as the tide goes out in order to avoid collecting oysters that may have been exposed for longer periods of time. Harvesting businesses have control measures that are used during the summer months to prevent consumers from getting sick. However, if these measures are not enough, commercial harvest areas undergo stricter measures or are closed.
Currently, Hammersley Inlet, parts of Hood Canal, including Dabob Bay and Quilcene Bay, have been closed due to high levels of Vibrio bacteria found. Those who gather their own shellfish should always check the shellfish safety website for possible health risks before venturing out to the beach. Oysters should be cooked at 145 F for 15 seconds to destroy the Vibrio bacteria.
Make sure to consult your primary care physician or chiropractor for all health related advice.
Image Credit: raw oysters at Cooter Brown’s by mindync, used under a Creative Commons License.
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