July 23, 2012 — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that Oyster Bay Harbor, Nassau County, in New York will be closed to shellfish harvesting due to contamination with Vibrio parahaemolyticus. This naturally-occurring coastal bacteria can cause severe gastrointestinal food poisoning in humans.
The closure of the entire harbor follows several smaller closures in sections of the harbor earlier this year. On July 13, 2012, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that the entire bay would be closed until further notice. The bay may be re-opened when the shellfish are no longer contaminated. The DEC has not closed any other harbors in the area.
The FDA is warning consumers not to eat any shellfish that may have been collected in Oyster Bay after June 1, 2012. Shellfish collected after this date should be discarded. The agencies have warned shellfish harvesters, shippers, re-shippers, processors, restaurants, and retail food distributors that they should not process or sell shellfish from the bay.
The shellfish were mostly distributed in the following states: Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. However, the shellfish could have been transported to other states.
The bacteria Vibrio parahaemolyticus naturally occurs in salty, brackish, coastal waters in North America. The bacteria is in the came family as the cholera bacteria, but it causes a gastrointestinal illness when it is ingested. It becomes more common during the summer months as the water gets warmer.
People who ingest shellfish contaminated with the bacteria can get sick within a few hours, but it may take up to five days to get sick. The illness involves watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, and chills. Healthy people who get sick usually recover within three days. Serious complications are rare, but may be more common in people who have a weakened immune system. People are most likely to contract the illness when they eat raw, undercooked oysters or other shellfish grown in contaminated waters.
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