Warning to Beachgoers and Shellfish Eaters
Written by chris Dalrymple, D.C., F.I.C.C.   
Thursday, September 27, 2018 12:44 PM

Texas beachgoers and shellfish eaters risk of contracting harmful and potentially fatal bacteria is elevated until November.

Vibrio bacteria, microorganisms that populate in salt water and thrive in the heat, are prevalent along the Texas coast this time of year. People are exposed to the bacteria by entering beach waters with an open wound or by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, such as oysters, that are contaminated.

Most people who come into contact with the bacteria don’t experience any harmful effects. Those most susceptible are people who have a weakened immune system, liver disease, diabetes, cancer or other chronic illness. Consuming the bacteria mostly affects those who have decreased gastric acidity.

Take these precautions to reduce risk of infection:
  • People with pre-existing wounds, including cuts, scrapes, fresh tattoos, blisters or bites should avoid contact with seawater or any kind of raw seafood. 
  • People with a weakened immune system should wear protective water shoes.
  • If a wound is exposed to seawater or raw seafood, thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water, and seek medical attention if the area begins to look infected.
  • Do not eat raw shellfish, especially oysters; cook seafood thoroughly.
  • Wear protective clothing like gloves when handling raw seafood.
  • Keep raw seafood separate from other food to avoid cross-contamination, immediately clean raw seafood spills with hot, soapy water.

“The real issue is the host’s immunity for cases related to shellfish consumption,” said the manager of the Seafood and Aquatic Life Group at the Department of State Health Services (DSHS). “It’s not a matter of if Vibrio is out there, it’s how much of it is out there. We’ve sampled for a number of years and we’ve seen Vibrio in virtually all oysters from April through November.”

In colder months, when the seawater temperature is 70 degrees and below, Vibrio bacteria are barely detectable, but in the summer months, there could be 30,000–40,000 microorganisms per gram of oyster tissue, he said. The average oyster weighs about 40 grams.

Texas has averaged 90 Vibrio infections per year for the past 10 years, according to data compiled by DSHS. Among those cases from 2008–2017, 41 percent were caused by water exposure, 24 percent by shellfish exposure and 35 percent by unidentified exposure. So far in 2018, three deaths have been attributed to the bacteria.

People who develop a skin infection or gastrointestinal symptoms that might be caused by Vibrio bacteria should seek medical attention immediately. They should tell their medical provider if they have come in contact with seawater, raw seafood or raw seafood juices, or if they ate raw or undercooked seafood before becoming sick.

To learn more, visit the DSHS Vibrio Infections page.

Source:  https://hhs.texas.gov/about-hhs/communications-events/news/2018/09/high-concentration-bacteria-prompts-warning-beachgoers-shellfish-eaters