Three people became sick recently after eating raw oysters collected from the same private grounds off Fisherman Island on Virginia's Eastern Shore. They ate the oysters at restaurants in Massachusetts and Maryland, victims of a pathogen that grows naturally in warm waters known as Vibrio parahaemolyticus.And this is chiefly why you shouldn't eat oysters in months without "R" in them. The warmer water is much more favorable to pathogens, and the pathogens grow much more rapidly if the seafood is handled poorly. Oysters are still "edible" in the warmer months, but they tend to be thin and watery due to rapid growth and spawning.
It is the less potent of two Vibrio strains - the tougher kind can kill humans - and typically hits unlucky consumers with vomiting, diarrhea and other stomach ailments. In one of the three reported cases, the person was ill for 10 days, said Keith Skiles, an oyster sanitation specialist with the Virginia Department of Health.
Skiles said Virginia has never experienced "an outbreak" of this kind before, defined by national rules as more than two cases of Vibrio stemming from the same waters.
"We hope it never gets us again," Skiles said Monday, three days after the health department announced it was closing down the Fisherman Island waters for the next year. A news release issued late Friday did not mention the word "outbreak," saying instead the closure was part of an "emergency."
Another cause of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infection is putting steamed crabs back into the dirty bushels (or other containers) they came from.