Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Vibrio Cholera traced back to Apalachicola Bay oysters

            Some Apalachicola Bay oysters are being recalled after being linked to an outbreak of Vibrio cholera.

The recalled oysters include shell stock, frozen half shell and fresh and frozen stock – most of which has already been consumed.

The recalled oysters were harvested from area 1642 since March the 21st.

That area is east of the St. George Island Bridge and includes the Cat Point bar.

The area was closed last Friday and will remain closed while state officials continue to test the area for any signs of the bacteria.

Vibrio Cholera is very rare in Florida – there probably hasn’t been a case in Florida in at least 20 years.

Florida Division of Aquaculture chief Leslie Palmer told county commissioners on Tuesday that the cause of the outbreak is not known and will likely never be known for sure, but there were two incidents that could have been factors.

The most likely cause was the Army Corps of Engineers dredging in the bay which stirred up the substrate where Vibrio cholera naturally exists.

Miss Palmer said that in the future her division will work much more closely with the Army Corps of Engineers if there is any dredging in the bay so they can proactively close areas that might be impacted.

The other was a sewer leak in Eastpoint near the old Miller and Sons seafood which was discovered and fixed on April the 8th.

They don’t know how long the sewer leak was there.

Miss Palmer said that was a less likely suspect and the Eastpoint Water and Sewer District said the leak was small and likely did not even go into the bay.

At least 11 people are known to have gotten sick from the oysters including a 12 year old Florida boy and a 27 year old woman.

Another 4 cases are suspected but those patients did not go through the epidemiological process.

The last reported illness was on April the 13th.

There were no cases reported in Franklin County.

Water samples taken from the site have shown nothing out of the ordinary.

They are not taking meat or substrate samples because if they found the bacteria in those samples FDA would not allow the area to be reopened ever.

The Division of Aquaculture now has to file a report with the Food and Drug Administration explaining how they think the Vibrio cholera was introduces in the oysters and whether all necessary steps have been taken to alleviate the problem.

They hope to have that report completed this week – they are currently working with oyster dealers to get shipping records and other information.

They do not know how long area 1642 will remain closed to oyster harvesting but hope to have it open as soon as possible – before that can happen, however, the report has to be completed and accepted by the FDA.

Commissioner Pinki Jackel said that the area needs to be reopened as quickly as possible because every day it is closed it is costing local people thousands of dollars.

County commissioners said they will write a letter to the Eastpoint Water and Sewer District asking that in the future they are alerted to any leaks that could impact the oyster harvesting areas.

They will also write a letter to the Northwest Florida Water Management District alerting them to the situation.

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