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Public Health News

Posted on: July 13, 2018

Shellfish Vibrio Illness Rates Increasing

Check Before You Dig

For Immediate Release
Contact: Michael Dawson, Water Quality Manager
Jefferson County Public Health
360-385-9444 x301

Port Townsend – Several cases of vibriosis have been confirmed in Jefferson County in people who have consumed raw shellfish. Vibriosis is a gastrointestinal illness that can be caused by consuming raw shellfish from waters where Vibrio bacteria are abundant. Warm weather is a factor in the increased abundance of the bacteria, and if the shellfish are not properly handled and prepared, illness can result. In addition to the local illness cases, the Washington State Department of Health reports that they have seen high numbers of confirmed vibrio illnesses statewide since the beginning of the warm weather season. A Vibrio Warning was issued by State Health on May 15th for the waters of Hood Canal, and Jefferson County Public Health posted warning signs at public beaches from the Hood Canal Bridge south to the Mason County line near Triton Cove. Since illness reports are still being received, Jefferson County Public Health would like to remind the public of some simple ways to reduce the risk of vibriosis:

  • Dig at the waterline as the tide goes out.
  • Don’t harvest shellfish that have been baking the sun.
  • Chill your shellfish as quickly as possible.
  • Cook shellfish thoroughly to 145°F for at least 15 seconds. The FDA suggests steaming oysters for 4 to 9 minutes or boiling them for 3 to 5 minutes after they open.

Recreational shellfish harvesters should always check the Shellfish Safety Map at doh.wa.gov/ShellfishSafety.htm or call the Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632 before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Washington State. Recreational harvesters should also check Fish and Wildlife regulations and seasons at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish or call the Shellfish Rule Change Hotline 1-866-880-5431.
For more information on Vibriosis, see this information webpage at doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/Shellfish/RecreationalShellfish/Illnesses/Vibriosis. State Health also maintains a Facebook page with shellfish safety information at facebook.com/WAshellfishsafety. For questions about Jefferson County shellfish safety call 360-385-9444 Monday through Thursday 9:00 – 4:30. Anyone experiencing symptoms of illness should contact their health care provider, and can also consult one of the nurses at Jefferson County Public Health at 360-385-9400. More information about Jefferson County shellfish safety is available on our website at jeffersoncountypublichealth.org/735/Shellfish-Monitoring.

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Jefferson County Public Health

Always Working for a Safer and Healthier Community

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