As a coastal state, seafood is a major industry in Massachusetts. DPH’s Bureau of Environmental Health (BEH) has been monitoring the potential impact of climate change on a number of pathogenic marine microorganisms responsible for foodborne illnesses. Notably, DPH has worked in partnership with the Department of Fish and Game, Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) to address the emergence of Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) in Massachusetts.

DPH/BEH has been heavily involved in the surveillance of illness associated with Vp, a naturally-occurring bacterium found in warm, shallow brackish waters. Vp is a known human pathogen and a causative agent in foodborne illnesses that result from the consumption of raw oysters.  While Vp has traditionally caused illnesses in regions with much warmer climates (e.g., Gulf Coast, West Coast), it has recently started to impact Massachusetts. With water temperatures continuing to increase, the frequency of foodborne illnesses associated with Vp has increased.  In an effort to best address this emerging public health concern, DPH and DMF developed a Vp Control Plan requiring strict harvest controls for oysters. This Plan is updated annually.

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This information is provided by the Food Protection Program within the Department of Public Health.