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Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release # 063-06
Friday, July 21, 2006

MEDIA CONTACT: (212) 788-5290; (212) 788-3058 (After Hours)
Andrew Tucker (atucker@health.nyc.gov)
Sara Markt (smarkt@health.nyc.gov)


HEALTH DEPARTMENT REMINDS NEW YORKERS OF RISK OF EATING RAW OR UNDERCOOKED SHELLFISH

Recent Increase in Food-borne Illness Caused by Bacteria in Clams, Oysters, and Other Shellfish from Pacific Northwest

NEW YORK CITY – July 21, 2006 – Following an increase in stomach illness related to consuming raw or undercooked shellfish over the past several weeks, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) today reminded New Yorkers of the health risks associated with eating raw clams, oysters, and other shellfish. The DOHMH recommends that people with weakened immune systems not eat raw shellfish. The department also urged New Yorkers to make sure that any cooked shellfish they consume is properly stored and prepared.

The illness is caused by bacteria called Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which is commonly found in shellfish. Outbreaks have been reported over the past several weeks in Oregon, Washington state, and British Columbia. Over the past several weeks, there have been 4 clusters of Vibrio illness in New York City.

DOHMH is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration to closely monitor the situation. "New Yorkers should know that there is always a risk in eating raw shellfish, regardless of where it came from," said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. "If you consume shellfish and experience symptoms of stomach illness, contact your health care provider and ask them to test you for Vibrio bacteria."

Vibrio illness causes watery diarrhea, stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. Symptoms generally appear within 24 hours of consuming the bacteria, and most people get better on their own within a few days.

Recommendations

  • New Yorkers who are very young, elderly, pregnant, or have liver disease or weakened immune systems should never eat raw shellfish.
  • New Yorkers who consumed shellfish and have symptoms described above should see their doctor and ask to be tested for Vibrio parahaemolyticus.
  • New Yorkers should take proper precautions when handling and cooking shellfish:
    • Store shellfish properly. Refrigerate shellfish immediately and keep them cold (under 41°F). Use well-ventilated containers, and cover the container with a damp cloth or paper towel. Do not store live shellfish in airtight containers or in fresh water, as this will kill them. Dead shellfish spoil rapidly. Do not cook or eat shellfish that have died during storage. Keep raw seafood and their juices away from other foods. To avoid cross-contamination, clean surfaces where raw seafood is handled prior to preparing other foods.
    • Cook shellfish properly. When preparing shellfish in the shell, boil until the shells open and continue cooking for 5 more minutes, or steam until the shells open and continue cooking for 9 more minutes. Boil shucked oysters at least 3 minutes, or fry in oil for at least 10 minutes at 375°F. Discard shellfish that do not open during cooking. Wash hands thoroughly after handling .

For more information on Vibrio parahaemolyticus, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/vibrioparahaemolyticus_g.htm.

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Important Links:
Get more information on Vibrio parahaemolyticus