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Cholera Outbreak Linked to Florida Oyster Area

Oysters from one harvest area of Florida’s Apalachicola Bay should not be eaten, served, purchased, sold or shipped, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in an alert Tuesday.

Eight people who ate oysters harvested from area 1642 between March 21 and April 6, 2011  were confirmed to have toxigenic Vibrio cholerae O75. Laboratory results have yet to come in for a ninth suspected case. No one has died or was hospitalized.

Area 1642 is one of several harvest zones in Apalachicola Bay.  It stretches from north and south in Apalachicola Bay just on the east side of the bridge that connects Eastpoint to St. George Island.  The area is about two miles side from east to west.

Apalachicola Bay produces about 90 percent of Florida’s oyster harvest. It continued to produce oysters last year when other areas of the Gulf of Mexico saw their oyster harvest devastated by the BP oil spill.

An investigation into the outbreak illnesses led Florida officials to close area 1642 on April 29. Officials found that everyone who was ill had consumed raw or lightly steamed oysters in Florida. Those sickened were residents of Georgia, Louisiana, Indiana and Florida.

Florida’s Division of Aquaculture, a unit of the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, asked commercial oyster harvesters and dealers who obtained oysters from the area to recall them.

The oysters or oyster products were initially distributed in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and North Carolina. However, they may have been subsequently distributed to other states as well.

FDA sampled oysters from area 1642 earlier this week and gave Florida the OK to end the two-week closure.

Symptoms of Vibrio illness include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea that begin from a few hours to up to five days after consumption of raw or uncooked seafood, especially shellfish. 

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