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Flesh-Eating Bacteria Claims Lives Linked to Raw Oyster Consumption

Photo: People

As summer reaches its peak, many flock to seafood restaurants and coastal towns to savor the delights of raw oysters. Yet, beneath the delectable shell lies a lurking danger – Vibrio vulnificus, an insidious bacterium often dubbed the “flesh-eating bacteria.”

Flesh-Eating Bacteria Claims Lives Linked to Raw Oyster Consumption (Photo: Discover Ireland)

Hidden Killer in Warm Coastal Waters

According to the report featured by Delish, in September 13, 2023, over Labor Day weekend, tragedy struck in Texas when a man lost his life after dining out at a restaurant. The seemingly innocuous choice that led to this fatal outcome? Raw oysters. Unfortunately, this scenario has played out across the country this summer, as Vibrio vulnificus, often referred to as a “flesh-eating bacteria,” has left a trail of devastation.

Vibrio vulnificus, a close relative of the cholera-causing bacterium,  flesh-eating bacteria thrives in warm coastal waters. With an estimated 150-200 infections annually in the United States, this bacterium claims the lives of around 20% of those it infects. It has earned the ominous moniker “flesh-eating bacteria” due to its ability to cause necrosis around wounds.

While most infections of these flesh-eating bacteria occur through contact with contaminated water and open wounds, the primary source is the consumption of raw or undercooked seafood. The symptoms and the rising risks associated with Vibrio vulnificus infections, exacerbated by factors such as rising water temperatures and hurricanes.

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Protecting Yourself – Making Safer Seafood Choices

In a recent development released by USA Today, identifying Vibrio vulnificus-contaminated oysters is virtually impossible through visual inspection alone. It’s a menacing, invisible threat. To enjoy raw oysters without risking infection of flesh-eating bacteria, consider sourcing them from cooler waters, like those around Canada’s Prince Edward Island, where the risk is significantly lower. Alternatively, opt for the safer route of cooking your oysters.

While fried and grilled oysters may lack the allure of their raw counterparts, they offer a shield against this deadly flesh-eating bacteria, ensuring your summer seafood indulgence doesn’t turn into a health hazard. It provides essential guidance on making informed choices to relish your favorite seafood dishes without jeopardizing your well-being.

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