The Center for Science in the Public Interest has stated that the FDA has denied their petition to control Vibrio in shellfish. Every year, Americans are sickened, and some die, after eating raw shellfish contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus.
The FDA could set a performance standard that would control this issue. CSPI petitioned the FDA to use this power in 2012. The government denied the petition, citing “competing priorities.”
Most people who do contract this infection get sick during the summer months after eating raw oysters from Gulf Coast states. Vibrio infections are, unfortunately, occurring even in northern states as climate change is warming ocean waters. In September 2015, a Vibrio outbreak in Massachusetts closed oyster beds in the area. In August 2015, another Vibrio outbreak on Martha’s Vineyard closed oyster beds there.Also in August 2015, a Vibrio outbreak in Canada linked to raw oysters harvested in that country sickened at least 67 people.
Vibrio vulnificus is a pathogenic bacteria that is found in estuaries, brackish water, and coastal areas. The symptoms of a Vibrio infection include vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. In addition, this bacteria can cause serious skin infections if a person with open wounds swims or wades in areas where the pathogen is present.
Vibrio vulnificus is much more likely to cause invasive septicemia, especially in those who have compromised immune systems. This can cause septic shock and can lead to death.
People who are in high risk groups are encouraged to avoid eating raw oysters any time of the year, but especially during the summer months. Those people include young children, the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, and anyone with a chronic illness.
Vibriosis causes about 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths in this country every year. About a dozen different species cause illness. The most common are Vibrio vulnificus, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, and Vibrio alginolyticus. Most of these illnesses occur from May through October.