Florida health officials are warning people to steer clear of raw oysters after a man from Wewahitchka died and another remains hospitalized in critical condition.
Both men became ill after eating raw oysters which were infected with deadly bacteria that lives in saltwater. A spokeswoman with the Department of Health says the cases are proving an old wife's tale wrong.
Lindsey Hodges with the Florida Department of Health says, “We’ve had a number of vibrio vulnificus cases associated with oyster consumption in the state. There’s an old wife’s tale that says months that end in ‘R’ are safe for oyster consumption in the state and it’s simply not true. At this point we’re in November; we’ve had cases reported in September, October, November of individuals that have come down with vulnificus, which is a bacteria infection related to oyster consumption.”
Thirty-nine-year-old Dennis Sharron of Wewahitchka died on November 5, less than a week after he ate raw oysters.
The second victim, 45-year-old James Palmer of Panama City, has been in the hospital since Wednesday. Doctors had to amputate his right leg, but say his condition is improving.
What Is Vibrio Vulnificus?
Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium in the same family as those that cause cholera. It normally lives in warm seawater and is part of a group of vibrios that are called "halophilic" because they require salt.
What Type of Illness Does V. Vulnificus Cause?
How Common Is V. Vulnificus Infection?
How Do Persons Get Infected/Treated?
Tips for Preventing V. Vulnificus
1. Do not eat raw oysters or other raw shellfish.
2. Cook shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels) thoroughly:
3. For shellfish in the shell, either a) boil until the shells open and continue boiling for 5 more minutes, or b) steam until the shells open and then continue cooking for 9 more minutes. Do not eat those shellfish that do not open during cooking. Boil shucked oysters at least 3 minutes, or fry them in oil at least 10 minutes at 375°F.
4. Avoid cross-contamination of cooked seafood and other foods with raw seafood and juices from raw seafood.
5. Eat shellfish promptly after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.
6. Avoid exposure of open wounds or broken skin to warm salt or brackish water, or to raw shellfish harvested from such waters.
7. Wear protective clothing (e.g., gloves) when handling raw shellfish.
Source: http://www.cds.gov (Centers for Disease Control Web site) contributed to this report.