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Potential Risk of Eating Raw Oysters

As the temperature rises in our state, so does the incidence of illness from a bacterium called Vibrio vulnificus, often found in raw oysters. Those most at-risk for developing serious illness from Vibrio vulnificus include heavy drinkers and people with certain health conditions such as liver disease, diabetes, cancer, stomach disorders or any illness or treatment that weakens the immune system. While otherwise healthy persons eating raw oysters contaminated with this bacterium are less susceptible to becoming ill, at-risk individuals are likely to become extremely ill or die. People in these high-risk groups are also at risk of illness if they have wounds or cuts and wade in estuarine or seawater.

Eating thoroughly cooked oysters can reduce the risk of illness. Thoroughly cooking oysters, either by frying, stewing or roasting eliminates harmful bacteria and viruses in the meat. Consuming raw oysters that have undergone a treatment process to eliminate the bacteria can also reduce the risk of illness.

Initial symptoms of Vibrio vulnificus infection can include mild nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, followed by distinctive swollen skin lesions, and septicemia (blood poisoning). Approximately half of all reported Vibrio vulnificus cases from oyster consumption result in death. If someone experiences these symptoms after consuming raw oysters, they should contact their personal physician immediately to receive antibiotic treatment.

For more information, please visit the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference website at http://www.issc.org/, choose Consumer Education from the Subject List, then choose, Risks of Eating Raw Oysters. More detailed information is also available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

This is a scaled down version
of our main environmental health site. For more detailed information please visit our main site at http://www.doh.state.fl.us/chd/volusia/EH/index.html