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|Bacterium closes area oyster beds|
|Written by Gillian Smith|
|Wednesday, 04 September 2013 09:28|
Island Creek Oysters is issuing a recall of all products sold since July 22 and closing oyster beds in Duxbury and Plymouth due to the discovery of three illnesses resulting from the consumption of oysters harvested at that time.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Department of Fish and Game, Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) announced the closure of oyster beds in Plymouth Harbor, Kingston Bay, Duxbury Bay, Bluefish River and Back River in Plymouth, Kingston, Duxbury and Marshfield on Friday following an outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus.
Island Creek is one of 39 in the Greater Plymouth area that were notified by health officials of illnesses caused by Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which causes gastroenteritis within hours of consumption. It is a bacterium that occurs naturally in oceans worldwide and is prevalent in warmer waters. Extreme temperatures experienced in Massachusetts at the end of July are partly to blame for the spike in the levels of this bacterium in local water.
When ingested, Vibrio causes diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. These symptoms usually occur within 24 hours of ingestion and last three days. Severe disease is rare and occurs more commonly in people with weak- ened immune systems. About 10 percent of cases will develop a blood infection that may require hospitalization. Vibrio is not related to pollution of Massachusetts shellfish.
Shore Gregory, president of Island Creek Oysters, said the farm will not be harvest- ing any oysters from the farms in the affected areas until they can ensure there is no risk of people becoming ill from eating the oysters.
“At Island Creek we go to great lengths to ensure the safety of the food we grow; we meet or exceed the FDA guidelines in all facets of our farming and handling practices,” he said. “We realize most of the many hundreds of thousands of oysters harvested and enjoyed during that time period were safely consumed weeks ago; however, as committed, lifelong farmers of course we would err on the side of caution in this instance.”
Harvesting and possession of oysters from the affected areas for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited by state officials until further notice. This is the first time a specific harvest area in Massachusetts has been implicated in a Vibrio outbreak.
DPH has linked three cases of Vibrio illness to oysters consumed from these areas, including two cases in which oysters were consumed out of state. All three people who consumed the oysters have re- covered.
Cheryl Bartlett, Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Health, said the DPH understands the significant impact the closures will have on local businesses.
“We are committed to part- nering with industry to ensure the public’s health and safety through a successful Vibrio control plan,” she said. “The most important step of this plan is to eliminate possible sources of exposure to prevent future food-borne illness.”
Since May 31, the DPH Bureau of Environmental Health Food Protection Program has received 50 reports of laboratory-confirmed Vibrio parahaemolyticus in Mas- sachusetts residents, compared to 27 cases during the same time period last year. Due to an increase in Vibrio cases since 2012, the FDA advised Massachusetts to expand Vibrio controls to all oysters harvested in the Commonwealth in 2013. A statewide Vibrio Control Plan has been in effect since May 2013.
Under federal regulations state shellfish authorities are required to take action when shellfish are linked to an outbreak of two or more people not from the same household. If a harvest area is responsible for the outbreak, Massachusetts is required to close the area.
State Representatives Tom Calter and Josh Cutler are currently working on having state DPH officials come to Dux- bury to meet with shellfishermen to talk about the Vibrio issue.