Bacteria concerns prompt oyster warning in Florida

Vibrio vulnificus bacteria responsible for 9 deaths this year in Sunshine State


BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Raw shellfish such as oysters may contain the bacteria that has killed nine Floridians this year, according to a new report from the Brevard County Department of Health.

The report says that shellfish, especially oysters that filter the Vibrio Vulnificus bacteria out of the water, need to be thoroughly cooked before eaten.

Health officials made a list of recommendations for handling shellfish to avoid infection:
- Do not eat raw oysters or other raw shellfish.

- Cook shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels) thoroughly.

- For shellfish in the shell, either a) boil until the shells open and continue boiling for 5 more minutes, or b) steam until the shells open and then continue cooking for 9 more minutes. Do not eat those shellfish that do not open during cooking. Boil shucked oysters at least 3 minutes, or fry them in oil at least 10 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit .

- Avoid cross-contamination of cooked seafood and other foods with raw seafood and juices from raw seafood.

- Eat shellfish promptly after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.

- Avoid exposure of open wounds or broken skin to warm salt or brackish water, or to raw shellfish harvested from such waters.

- Wear protective gloves when handling raw shellfish.

The report also says that people with weakened immune systems, especially those with weakened immune systems, were 80 times more susceptible to blood infections from the bacteria than healthy people.

Two Brevard County men recently recovered from an infection after the bacteria got into their open wounds. Health officials say the bacteria naturally occurs in the brackish lagoon waters and that normal sporting activities in the water are fine, but people should be aware of the risk.