public service announcement-raw oysters

rob333January 15, 2014

I was watching Untold Stories of the ER the other day. In it, the patient, who was chronic alcoholic and had a compromised liver, had eaten oysters. He was unconscious and dying from shock (septic shock).

When I looked up what the correlation for liver and oysters, I saw that his condition accounted for 95% of all deaths related to seafood. Wow! I would've guessed anaphylaxis to shellfish to be the major culprit. Vibrio vulnificus infection from ingestion has mortality rate of 50%. People who have compromised immune systems or liver disease are the ones at risk. There are cases where just swimming in warm brackish water infected with the bacteria (vibrio vulnificus, cases seen in 2013 (10 deaths)) enter the system via wounds, but ingesting the shellfish that eat vibrio (which you then ingest those shellfish), can also cause fatality. Actually, the mortality rate is less from wounds, "only" 25% of cases.

Mostly, I'm telling you because I am so surprised you never hear "Don't eat raw oysters if you have a damaged liver". Yes, there is the don't eat shellfish unless the month has an r, but that's not enough.

Pass it... Don't eat raw oysters, raw or undercooked seafood if you liver disease or a compromised immune system.

Here is a link that might be useful: CDC fact sheet on vibrio

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Last October I went to the Beaufort (SC) Shrimp Festival. Great time, great food. While there I ate lots of shrimp and seafood, including some really tasty raw oysters.

When I got back to the office Monday on my fax machine was a report from the SC health department, which said "Don't eat raw oysters from SC at this time; they've found Vibrio in the oyster beds."

Sure enough, within a day I got some really explosive GI symptoms, and a high fever to boot. Fortunately no nausea or vomiting, just explosive diarrhea.

Here's my rationalization: Hey, I've eaten hundreds of dozens of raw oysters over the years without any problems, so I probably have hundreds more to go before I get another setback.

Just kidding. Vibrio is some nasty stuff, and if you have a compromised immune system and/or a lousy liver, you want to make sure that those shellfish are cooked. You don't have to cremate them, but make sure they are cooked.

On the other hand, if you're looking for a fun weekend in early October, you could do a lot worse than Beaufort. The 2014 Shrimp Festival dates are October 3 and 4.

Here is a link that might be useful: Beaufort Shrimp Festival

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 3:28PM
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yes, have fun, but be careful if you're at risk! I'd love to attend a shrimp festival. And, those qualifiers don't apply to me. Luckily.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 3:54PM
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Eat Oregon oysters, from our cold clear waters.

The local oyster guy stopped coming to my local market. I'm sad. In the summer, I used to buy a dozen oysters every week, directly from the man who harvested them, on rocky shores just 100 miles away. Now I have to get oysters from stores. They are expensive. Or if they are less expensive, there is no information on their source.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 4:22PM
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The Oyster Bar here in NYC Grand Central Terminal train station must have served billions and billions of oysters for many many years. I don't remember any incidence of people gotten sick.

They key is that you have to know where the oysters are coming from.


    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 9:33PM
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Actually, the key is not consume them when you have a damaged system. Which was the warning.


    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 7:41AM
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Not eating higher risk food when you have a compromised immune system (raw eggs, honey, meat or fish) seems like a no-brainer, but apparently not.

Raw oysters are among my favorite things to consume. That being said, I don't have a compromised immune system and I never eat warm water oysters, I don't care what month it is. Cold water oysters? Bring 'em on.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 8:43AM
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When I was growing up in Louisiana, all I was exposed to was Gulf oysters. Only lately have I manage to taste Blue Points, PEI, Malpeques, etc. and I agree: cold water oysters are terrific.

On my bucket list is to go to Brittany and gorge on Belons. Maybe someday.

If you're ever in Atlanta, right next to the Aquarium downtown is a Hilton Garden Inn. On the second floor they have a branch of Boston's Legal Sea Foods, but on the ground floor in the lobby they have an oyster bar that specializes in oysters from far away. Tasted my first Malpeque there.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 8:58AM
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When I said compromised liver, had you heard that before? Of course, anyone with a compromised immune system knows all of this!!! It was only included so as to be all encompassing statement.

I'd never once heard liver. For liver, all you hear are certain drugs to avoid, e.g. acetaminophen. At least, in the general public it's not well known.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 9:49AM
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