Consumer Advisory Concerning Vibrio Parahaemolyticus Infections Associated with Consumption of Raw and Undercooked Shellfish

Immune Compromised Individuals at most risk

Albany, August 23, 2002 – State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr. P.H. today announced that State and local health departments are currently investigating eight cases of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infection in state residents who consumed shellfish one or two days prior to becoming sick. Two additional cases have also occurred among Connecticut and New Jersey residents. V. parahaemolyticus infection commonly occurs through the ingestion of bacteria in contaminated raw or undercooked shellfish.

Preliminary information indicates that the shellfish may have been harvested from a number of different sites in the Northeastern United States coastal waters. Dr. Novello issued a statewide advisory this week to all hospitals alerting them to the increased number of infections in New York.

V. parahaemolyticus is a naturally occurring saltwater bacteria. The number of these bacteria may increase as the water temperature rises in the summer. Infections have usually been associated with shellfish harvested from warmer coastal waters in the Gulf of Mexico near Texas, Louisiana and Florida. An outbreak of V. parahaemolyticus occurred in 1998 in the New York Tri–State Metropolitan area involving 23 cases.

Consumers are urged to thoroughly cook all shellfish and not to eat raw clams or oysters. In addition, all shellfish should be handled carefully to avoid contamination between cooked and raw shellfish. Cooking shellfish at temperatures of 140 degrees Fahrenheit will kill V. parahaemolyticus bacteria. Boil clams and oysters for 3 to 5 minutes after the shells open or steam 4 to 9 minutes from start of steaming.

V. parahaemolyticus infection symptoms include diarrhea, often with abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. Individuals with underlying liver disease and immune disorders are at increased risk for more serious infections. Although most people with diarrhea due to V. parahaemolyticus will recover within three days, anyone experiencing diarrhea after consuming raw or undercooked shellfish should consult their doctor and request a stool test. A diagnosis could be missed because this bacteria is generally not included in routine laboratory tests. Doctors are advised to specifically request laboratories to test for the Vibrio bacteria.

For further information contact your local health department.

8/23/02–87 OPA