What you need to know about clams and Vibrio vulnificus

Over the summer, three people died in New York and Connecticut, and one more person was hospitalized. New York times After being infected with Vibrio vulnificus, a rare but dangerous bacteria to humans. The bacteria is most often associated with brackish water, although it is also sometimes associated with eating raw or undercooked oysters and oysters. Here’s what you need to know about deaths and risks and how to safely continue to eat your favorite seafood.

What do you know about 2023 deaths?

according to timesOne death occurred in Suffolk County on Long Island, and two additional deaths and one hospitalization occurred in Connecticut. Although it’s not clear how each person came into contact with the bacteria, one person in Connecticut reported eating raw oysters from an out-of-state restaurant.

“Since July 1, three cases of V. vulnificus infection have been reported to the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH),” the organization shared in a statement. The three patients ranged in age from 60 to 80. All three patients were hospitalized, and one died. One patient reported eating raw oysters from an out-of-state establishment. Two patients reported exposure to salty or brackish water on Long Island. Both patients had pre-existing open wounds or wounds or developed new ones during these activities, which likely resulted in infection.

These cases are also not alone in 2023. In August Florida Department of Health It also reported that V. vulnificus caused 31 total cases and six deaths across the state in 2023.

What do you know about v. vulnificus

V. vulnificus, L Cleveland Clinic He explained that this type of bacteria can enter the human body after eating “uncooked or undercooked oysters.” The bacteria can also enter the body through an open wound when swimming in brackish water, also known as water found where rivers meet the sea. Cleveland Clinic added that the bacteria can “lead to sepsis, shock, and large, spreading blisters that destroy tissue.” According to the medical journal statpearlsDespite its worldwide prevalence and extremely low infection rates, V. vulnificus “has the highest number of seafood-related deaths in the United States”.

Washington Post He also cited New York health officials, who state that infections are most likely to occur during the warmer summer months (between May and October) along coastal environments.

times He also referred to a Study 2023Which showed that bacteria, once considered rare in the northern half of the United States, are becoming more common as ocean temperatures rise. The researchers found that between 1988 and 2018, V. vulnificus wound infections increased eightfold,” and that “V. vulnificus infection may be present in every eastern USA state given future medium-to-high emissions and warming” by 2100.

Who is at risk?

The CDC states that although anyone can get it, some people are more at risk than others, including those who may have a weakened immune system, “for example, people with liver disease or Are taking medication that reduces the body’s ability to fight off germs. In addition, the Cleveland Clinic lists those whose job or hobby puts them “in contact with raw shellfish, or the sea water in which they live” as more at risk, along with that “men and people identified as male at birth are more likely to develop serious infections than women.” “. And people appointed a female at birth.

Is there a cure?

If caught early, antibiotics can be used to treat the infection. However, if the infection has spread, surgery may be required, including draining the wounds until amputation, Cleveland Clinic explains.

Can you tell if the shellfish is infected?

V. vulnificus doesn’t make shellfish smell or taste any different. However, it is important to note that professional shellfish suppliers do everything they can to protect their products and you from infection. said Paul McCormick, of New York’s Great Gun Oysters in East Mauritius eaterHe added, “Public health is our primary concern, and we do not take any risks in this regard. We harvest in the shade, ice our produce immediately after harvest, maintain temperature control through delivery, and keep all equipment on the farm, free of biofouling and any birds.”

Additionally, New York State has official monitoring plan Aiming to stop the spread of V. vulnificus. This plan includes a requirement that oysters be shaded “at all times from May 1 to October 31,” including “on board the harvesting vessel and during transit in any boat, vehicle, or other mode of transportation,” and that all oysters be shaded. Delivered to an “authorized dealer in Suffolk or Nassau County on the same day as the harvest.”

“New York oyster farmers are only allowed to operate in waters approved for oyster harvesting by the Department of Environmental Conservation,” McCormick said. eaterHe added that the state “has been subject to a strict plan to control vibrio for years.”

Is eating oysters and oysters dangerous?

said Christopher Boyle, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Health timesTwo of his cases were contracted by people with open wounds who swam in Long Island Sound. The third person became ill after eating raw oysters, even though the person ate the oysters at a restaurant outside the country.

“No one has ever been infected with Vibrio from eating shellfish or oysters in Connecticut,” Connecticut Public Health Commissioner Manisha Jothani told a news conference.

Ultimately, it is up to you to assess your personal health and risks when it comes to eating uncooked seafood. WebMD It lists oysters as “an abundant source of several vitamins and minerals.” However, it also adds a footnote about the potential risks of eating raw and undercooked foods.

The CDC states that it may be best to “fully cook shellfish (clams and oysters) before eating, and only order fully cooked shellfish at restaurants.” She adds that neither hot sauce nor lemon juice can kill Vibrio bacteria. “Some oysters are processed for safety after they are harvested,” says the CDC. “This treatment can reduce Vibrio levels in the oysters, but it doesn’t remove all harmful bacteria.”

“Disease rates in raw oysters from New England are very small and improving,” Bob Rheault
Executive Director of East Coast Oyster Growers AssociationShare with food and wine. “For example, Massachusetts harvests more than 54 million oysters annually and has about a dozen Vibrio parahaemolyticus diseases annually, so your odds of contracting the disease from oysters harvested commercially in New England are very slim.”

“The aquaculture industry has invested millions of dollars in ice machines, refrigerated trucks and refrigeration units to ensure we have a safe supply of shellfish,” adds Ryault.

As with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others, “The message shouldn’t be to avoid shellfish, but if you’re immune-compromised, only eat them cooked,” says Rheault.

However, you should use caution if you have an open wound, including a wound from surgery, a new tattoo, or a piercing. Then you should stay away from the water, or at least cover your wound with a waterproof bandage. If your wound comes into contact with water, the CDC recommends “washing cuts and wounds thoroughly with soap and water after contact with salt water, brackish water, raw seafood or their juices.”

And in case you need some tips on how to cook clams and oysters the right way, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered here.

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