The potential risk of getting sick after eating seafood is a danger many are aware of and are certainly willing to take (sushi, anyone?). However, it’s advisable now to reconsider those risks this holiday season. This week, Florida has reported a recent increase in reported cases of a potentially deadly bacteria called Vibrio vulnifius – a bacteria that causes serious illness.
While the rate of illness induced by other bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella and listeria have remained stagnant recently, Vibrio-poisoning has risen by a shocking 52 percent in just a few years. This year, the total number of Vibrio-poisoning cases in Florida has reached 42, higher than any year since 2008.
Tragically, the death toll has risen to 13.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a warning about the bacteria. Vibrio can cause disease in those who have eaten contaminated seafood or who have exposed an open wound to affected seawater.
If you have consumed Vibro-contaminated fish or oysters, side effects include vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. If you are healthy, the infection will likely be mild and curable. However, Vibrio poses a serious problem for those with weakened immune systems and those with chronic liver disease. Vibrio, at its worst, can invade the bloodstream and can lead to life-threatening illness. These symptoms include fever, chills, decreased blood pressure and blistering skin lesions. Once this happens, Vibrio can be fatal 50 percent of the time.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set stricter guidelines for oysters, clams, mussels and other bacteria-carrying fish. Additionally, the FDA has called for screenings on all imported seafood.
If it is an absolute must that you must eat seafood this holiday season, the Florida health department has provided specific preparation guidelines for you.
- Wear protective clothing such as gloves when handling raw shellfish.
- For shellfish in the shell, either (1) boil until the shells open and continue boiling for five more minutes, or (2) steam until the shells open and then continue cooking for nine more minutes. Do not eat those shellfish that do not open during cooking.
- Boil shucked oysters at least three minutes, or fry them in oil at least 10 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Eat shellfish promptly after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.