Health Warning Issued for Eating Raw Oysters, Wading in Seawater

A pleasant activity for those vacationing by the ocean is to wade in the warm water along the beach.  What could be more pleasurable than hearing the waves crash upon the shore while you feel the warm water splash against your legs.  Who would think this pleasant activity could actually be dangerous for your health?

A microscopic bacterial organism occurring naturally in coastal areas of the Gulf or Mexico and in the Atlantic and Pacific ocean can cause a potentially fatal infection.  The Mobile County Health Department issued  a warning about this bacteria, vibrio, which can cause a potentially life-threatening illness.

Health officials said that infections from the bacteria are usually from eating raw oysters, but can also result from eating other undercooked or raw shellfish.  Another way to contract the bacteria is by wading through seawater when you have open wounds or sores on your feet or legs.  Dr. Bernard Eichold of the Mobile County Department of Health said vibrio infection is not caused by pollution or improper food handling.

The overall death rates from vibrio infection is greater than forty percent, and for certain high risk groups, the risk of death is even greater.  Those who are at greater risk of infection are those individuals who suffer from kidney or liver disease, iron or immune disorders, diabetes, cancer or digestive problems, or are elderly, use steroids or are regular antacid users. 

The best way to prevent vibrio infection is to thoroughly cook all shellfish and avoid exposure to seawater if you have any sores, wounds or broken skin on your body.  The symptoms of infection include chills, vomiting, fever, painful sores, diarrhea and blood poisoning.  If you believe you have been exposed to vibrio, you should seek immediate medical care.

For more information on vibrio, the Mobile County Health Department can be contacted at 251-690-8137 or you can call the Food and Drug Administration’s Seafood Hotline at 1-800-FDA-4010.