For Immediate Release - September 09, 2013

Department Of Public Health and Division of Marine Fisheries Announce Closure of Oyster Beds in Edgartown

Several cases of Vibrio linked to consumption of oysters harvested from the area

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) today announced the closure of oyster beds in Katama Bay in the community of Edgartown following an outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) tied to oysters harvested from the area. The decision to close the beds was reached in consultation between DPH, DMF and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Harvesting and possession of oysters from these areas for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited until further notice. DPH has also launched a recall of oysters collected from these areas since August 1, 2013. This is the second time a specific harvest area in Massachusetts has been implicated in a Vibrio outbreak.

DPH has linked two cases of Vibrio illness to oysters consumed from this area. In both cases, the people who consumed the oysters have recovered.

“We recognize the impact these actions have on many of our local businesses, and we do not take them lightly,” said Cheryl Bartlett, R.N., Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Health. “We will continue to partner with federal and local health officials and industry to ensure the public’s health and safety. It is clear that Vibrio illness is rising this summer in Massachusetts and along the Eastern seaboard.”

“Industry-wide, we are working to prevent Vibrio outbreaks through mandated safety measures, with good cooperation from the oyster farmers, growers and fishermen,” said DMF Director Paul Diodati. ”Massachusetts oyster farmers take great pride in the quality of their oysters but the safety of customers across the country is our key concern.”

Since May 31, 2013, the DPH Bureau of Environmental Health Food Protection Program has received 50 reports of laboratory-confirmed Vibrio parahaemolyticus in Massachusetts residents, compared to 27 cases during the same time period last year. Nineteen of the 50 cases have been traced to out-of-state harvest areas, or multiple beds and/or mishandling at food retail establishments in Massachusetts. The majority of the remaining cases have been linked to consumption of raw oysters harvested from Massachusetts growing areas.

When ingested, Vibrio causes watery diarrhea, often with abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. Usually these symptoms occur within 24 hours of ingestion and last three days. Severe disease is rare and occurs more commonly in people with weakened immune systems. About 10 percent of cases will develop a blood infection that may require hospitalization. Vibrio can also cause an infection of the skin when an open wound is exposed to warm seawater.

Vibrio is an emerging, naturally occurring bacterial pathogen often found in oysters harvested from warmer waters. It has caused illnesses in the Gulf Coast and West Coast of the United States for a number of years. It is not related to pollution of Massachusetts shellfish.

In 2012, the FDA recommended that DPH and DMF — the two state agencies with joint authority over shellfish sanitation and control — implement a Vibrio control plan for shellfish harvest and growing areas in Eastern Cape Cod Bay.

Due to the increase in Vibrio cases in 2012 and continued reports of Vibrio among consumers reporting consumption of raw oysters in waters beyond Eastern Cape Cod Bay, 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.

More information on Vibrio parahaemolyticus is available on the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/vibriop.

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