Beware of shellfish: infections are at double summer average

August 20, 2013

By Staff

Watch out for the shellfish — a saltwater bacteria has sickened more than twice the number of people in King County this summer than reported in past summers. During July, there were 13 confirmed or probable cases of vibrio parahaemolyticus infection in the county, compared to an average of four in recent years. Since the beginning of August, eight more cases have been confirmed.

“This is probably the tip of the iceberg. For every case that is reported, an estimated 142 additional cases go unreported,” Dr. Jeff Duchin, chief of communicable disease for Public Health – Seattle & King County, said in a press release.

The bacteria are typically found in raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly oysters. Those with pre-existing medical conditions or who take antacids regularly are at higher risk of illness from vibrio infection. Symptoms include moderate to severe diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and headache.

To prevent infection, cook shellfish to an internal temperature of 145 degrees for at least 15 seconds, do not rinse shellfish in seawater to avoid recontamination and keep raw or cooked shellfish well-refrigerated before serving.

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