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Crayfish Sickened Spokane Partygoers

On June 18, 2010, live crayfish ordered from an online seafood company were boiled in preparation for a Spokane party.

The next day, at the event, the crayfish were served warm in the same cooler that had contained the live crayfish.  As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recounts in its weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report, the chef later told health investigators that the cooler had not been cleaned before being used as a serving platter.

The leftovers were refrigerated overnight and served cold on the evening of July 20.

Four days later, on June 24, 2010, the Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) was notified of two people in a local hospital in intensive care with severe dehydration whose stool specimens yielded Vibrio mimicus.

 Investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asked to assist with the environmental and epidemiologic investigation, learned that both patients had eaten crayfish on June 20, 2010.

Questionnaires were administered to 21 of 22 persons who had attended either the party on June 19 or ate the meal of leftovers on June 20.

Of eight persons who consumed leftover crayfish, four became ill with actute, watery diarrhea. No other food items or environmental exposures were associated with illness.

Vibrio mimicus was isolated from cultures of stool specimens in three ill persons who submitted specimens. The two people who were hospitalized in an intensive-care unit suffered severe dehydration, metabolic acidosis, and acute renal failure, but recovered fully. The other two persons had mild, self-limited diarrheal illness.  

 Frozen leftover crayfish samples submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on July 21 for testing did not yield Vibrio mimicus by culture.

V. mimicus has been recognized as a cause of gastroenteritis transmitted by raw oysters, fish, turtle eggs, prawns, squid, and crayfish. V. mimicus, when carrying genes that encode cholera toxin, can cause severe watery diarrhea.

 Consumers and physicians should be aware that improperly handled marine and aquatic animal products can be a source of V. mimicus infections. Consumers should avoid cross-contamination of cooked seafood and other foods with raw seafood and juices from raw seafood and should follow FDA recommendations for selecting seafood and preparing it safely (3).

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