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The Risk of Eating Raw Oysters & Clams
  Advice for persons with liver disease, diabetes, or weakened immune systems...
Did you know?...
Each year, millions of Americans enjoy eating raw molluscan shellfish -- especially oysters and clams. But if you have a liver disease, diabetes, or a weak immune system, raw oysters or clams containing the bacteria Vibrio vulnificus can make you seriously ill.
You can avoid illness simply by:
a.. Eating only oysters or clams that have been thoroughly cooked.
b.. Eating raw oysters or clams only if they are treated and labeled "Processed to reduce Vibrio vulnificus to non-detectable levels."
What is Vibrio vulnificus?
Vibrio vulnificus is a bacteria that can cause sever illness or death to at-risk people who eat raw oysters or clams.
From 1989 to 2000, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recorded 282 serious illnesses associated with consumption of raw oysters and clams containing the Vibrio vulnificus bacteria. While illnesses are infrequent, about half (149) have resulted in death.
Where is it found?
Vibrio vulnificus is found naturally in warm coastal waters, such as the Gulf of Mexico, where levels of the bacteria are elevated during the summer months. Vibrio vulnificus is NOT a result of pollution, and can be found in waters approved for oyster and clam harvesting. Vibrio vulnificus does NOT change the appearance, taste, or odor of oysters or clams.
Are you at risk?
You are at risk of serious illness if you eat raw oysters or clams and have any of these health conditions:
a.. Liver disease (from hepatitis, cirrhosis, alcoholism, or cancer)
b.. Iron overload disease (hemochromatosis)
c.. Diabetes
d.. Cancer (including lymphoma, leukemia, Hodgkin's disease)
e.. Stomach disorders
f.. Or any illness or medical treatment that weakens the body's immune system
Unsure of your risk? Ask your doctor.
Healthy people are not at risk of serious infection.
How can you avoid infection?
If you at risk, raw or undercooked oysters or clams containing Vibrio vulnificus can make you sick.
You can also become infected if these bacteria enter your body through an open wound while swimming.
To safeguard your health, take these precautions:
a.. EAT oysters or clams that have been THOROUGHLY COOKED -- heat destroys the bacteria.
b.. EAT raw oysters or clams ONLY if they are treated and labeled "Processed to reduce Vibrio vulnificus to non-detectable levels."
c.. NEVER swim or wade in seawater when you have sores or open wounds.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms usually occur within 24-48 hours, and may include:
a.. Fever/chills
b.. Skin lesions
c.. Stomach pain/nausea
d.. Vomiting
e.. Diarrhea
f.. Shock
If you have any of these symptoms after eating raw oysters or clams, seek medical attention immediately.
For those at risk, infection can lead to death within two days. Early, aggressive antibiotic treatment is the most effective therapy.
Vibrio vulnificus rarely affects healthy individuals. When it does, symptoms are mild and temporary.
Cooking tips
In the shell...
a.. Cook live oysters or clams in small pots so those in the middle are cooked thoroughly.
b.. Boiling: After the shells open, boil live oysters or clams for another 3-5 minutes.
c.. Steaming: In a pot that is already steaming, cook live oysters or clams for another 4-9 minutes.
Shucked oysters...
a.. Boil or Simmer for at least 3 minutes.
b.. Fry at 375 degrees F for at least 3 minutes.
c.. Broil 3 inches from heat for 3 minutes.
d.. Bake at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes
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