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Vibrio parahaemolyticus Outbreak Associated with Alaska Oysters


August 25, 2004

Juneau, Alaska - Until commercial shellfish samples test negative for Vibrio parahaemolyticus, the Departments of Environmental Conservation and Health and Social Services (DHSS) will provide ongoing, updated information to the public regarding growing areas associated with the outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus gastroenteritis.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a bacterium that naturally inhabits coastal waters in North America. Symptoms include watery diarrhea often with abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills that occur within 30 hours of ingestion.

Currently, DEC is working with growers on sampling water and oysters from shellfish growing areas throughout Alaska. To date, three oyster farms (two in PrinceWilliam Sound and one in Southeast Alaska) have been identified with positive oyster samples linked to human cases of the disease outbreak. These three growing areas have been closed pending further laboratory analysis. They will remain closed until two consecutive representative samples of oysters collected a minimum of four days apart show an absence of pathogenic V. parahaemolyticus. 

If five or more confirmed pathogenic V. parahaemolyticus colonies are found in both a sample and a replicate sample of oysters from a growing area, that growing area will be closed pending further analysis. In addition, if ill persons associated with this outbreak are identified as having eaten oysters from growing areas with laboratory confirmed pathogenic V. parahaemolyticus, those growing areas will also be closed pending further analysis. Growing areas are being asked to record water temperatures and to submit monthly reports to DEC.

So far, water and oyster samples submitted from Kachemak Bay East have been negative for V. parahaemolyticus; however, Kachemak Bay East has been holding their product since August 6 due to a paralytic shellfish poison (PSP) closure. If more closures are necessary, announcements will be made by DEC.


Source of News Release:

Alaska Departments of Environmental Conservation and Health & Social Services



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