Harvesters and seafood dealers say demand for Apalachicola Bay oysters has dropped after reports of sickness and two recent deaths in Florida linked to eating the shellfish raw.
Rocky Moore said his sales at Little Bay Two Incorporated are down 35 percent. Others say out-of-town businesses that normally would get 100 bags a week have ordered none.
The Thanksgiving holiday is the biggest time of year for oyster consumption.
Some oystermen refuse to talk about the situation, fearing that would generate more bad publicity. Others defend their product, saying it is being unfairly singled out for criticism.
Franklin County historically harvests 90 percent of the state's oysters and 10 percent of the nation's supply.
The culprit in oysters is Vibrio vulnificus. The bacteria that often is found in bays and other waters has killed at least 10 people in Florida this year, including three who had eaten raw oysters.
Florida health officials have renewed warnings for people with compromised immune systems to avoid raw oysters.
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What Is Vibrio Vulnificus?
Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium in the same family as those that cause cholera. It normally lives in warm seawater and is part of a group of vibrios that are called "halophilic" because they require salt.
What Type of Illness Does V. Vulnificus Cause?
How Common Is V. Vulnificus Infection?
How Do Persons Get Infected/Treated?
Tips for Preventing V. Vulnificus
1. Do not eat raw oysters or other raw shellfish.
2. Cook shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels) thoroughly:
3. For shellfish in the shell, either a) boil until the shells open and continue boiling for 5 more minutes, or b) steam until the shells open and then continue cooking for 9 more minutes. Do not eat those shellfish that do not open during cooking. Boil shucked oysters at least 3 minutes, or fry them in oil at least 10 minutes at 375°F.
4. Avoid cross-contamination of cooked seafood and other foods with raw seafood and juices from raw seafood.
5. Eat shellfish promptly after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.
6. Avoid exposure of open wounds or broken skin to warm salt or brackish water, or to raw shellfish harvested from such waters.
7. Wear protective clothing (e.g., gloves) when handling raw shellfish.
Source: http://www.cds.gov (Centers for Disease Control Web site) contributed to this report.
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