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Warning on Eating Shellfish Stepped Up

Continued reports of illness caused by eating raw shellfish have made the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue a warning today against eating raw shellfish. Reports coming// in show that oysters and clams raised in the Pacific Northwest have made people sick across the country. Till date there have been about 200 reported cases of people coming down with gastroenteritis after eating raw shellfish. The illness is caused by Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which grows on shellfish in warm weather. According to the FDA, symptoms of the illness are watery diarrhea, often accompanied by abdominal cramping, vomiting, nausea, fever and chills.

Donald Kraemer, acting director of the FDA's Office of Seafood said, "We want consumers to be aware that there is a risk associated with consuming raw shellfish." The infection is mostly life-threatening only to the very old or infirm. Cooking the shellfish thoroughly kills the bacteria.

Warming of the ocean's temperatures over the past few decades has caused the Vibrio parahaemolyticus to move northward steadily. Few scientists have said that they expect it to become more prevalent in the future.

It was only in 2004 that the illusion of the cold Alaskan waters being a deterrent for the growth of Vibrio, was laid to rest. With an unusually warm summer an outbreak of gastroenteritis took place among cruise ship passengers who ate Alaskan-raised shellfish.

Dr. Joe McLaughlin, a medical epidemiologist at the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services in Anchorage said, "If global temperatures continue to rise as they have over recent years, we should definitely be prepared to see more Vibrio parahaemolyticus in high latitude coastal ocean waters."


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