Washington issues warning not to eat raw shellfish after ‘Heat Dome’
Washington state health officials have urged consumers not to eat raw oysters and other locally harvested shellfish after an outbreak of intestinal disease caused by bacteria that grew rapidly after a recent “heat dome” cooked the Pacific Northwest.
State health officials said recent high temperatures and low tides were most likely to responsible for the epidemic disease, vibriosis, which sickened at least 52 people this month, the most on record in July.
The illness – which usually lasts between four hours and four days and causes diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever and chills – is associated with the consumption of raw or undercooked shellfish, especially oysters contaminated with vibrio, a bacterium that is found naturally in coastal waters.
In small numbers, the bacteria pose no threat to people who eat shellfish. But bacteria multiply quickly in warm conditions, so oysters are more likely to be contaminated during the hot summer months, when many like to savor the brackish delicacy with a glass of chilled wine.
Late last month, a “heat dome” enveloped the Pacific Northwest, shattering records across the region. Seattle broke a record June 28 for the highest temperature ever recorded by the National Weather Service there: 108 degrees. The previous record of 105 degrees was set in July 2009.
“It was a perfect storm from these very low tides that we had this month and the high heat,” Teresa McCallion, spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Health, said Thursday in a statement. interview.
“It’s most likely not a one-off thing, an anomaly,” she added. “As climate change affects a lot of things, this is just one example.”
While the link between a heat wave and climate change requires careful attribution analysis, heat waves around the world are becoming more frequent, lasting longer, and becoming more dangerous.
The 2018 National Climate Assessment, a major scientific report released by 13 federal agencies, notes that the number of hot days is increasing. And the frequency of heat waves in the United States has gone from an average of two per year in the 1960s to six per year in the 2010s. In addition, the heat wave season has lengthened by 45 days longer than it is. was in the 1960s, according to the report.
Washington state health officials have recommended that people cook seashells at 145 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds to destroy vibrio bacteria, which they check for. Ministry Shellfish Security Card before heading to the beach to harvest shellfish for recreational purposes, and that they always keep oysters cool on ice or in the refrigerator.
“We recommend that if you don’t want to get sick, you don’t eat raw oysters,” Ms. McCallion said. “Cook them. Make sure they are well cooked.
Margaret Pilaro, executive director of the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association, said it was important to remember that the vibrio is found naturally in coastal waters. She said it was also important to buy shellfish from a “reliable source” and to take care of the oysters by keeping them cold.
“It’s something that happens every year, and there are many delicious ways to eat cooked shellfish,” Ms. Pilaro said. “And when the temperatures drop, vibriosis isn’t much of a problem. Consumers can really be happy with the quality of the product they get.