Vibrio bacteria are common and occur naturally in marine environments. They are not related to pollution! Most Vibrio bacteria are benign, but some are pathogenic. Two of these species, Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio vulnificus have been associated with raw seafood consumption.
Shellfish are filter feeders and can accumulate this bacteria. If enough of the bacteria is consumed, illness can result. The most common symptoms are mild flu-like gastroenteritis that typically pass in few days.
Most of these infections are commonly associated with swimming or bathing in warm salty or brackish waters by those with cuts, abrasions, or open wounds.
To ensure the safety of shellfish, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Maine Department of Marine Resources, carefully regulate shellfish-growing waters and the harvesting and and handling of Maine shellfish. The National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP) requires harvesters and dealers to be licensed, inspected, and certified.
Consumers can avoid Vibrio-related illness by following current health advisories and by using proper handling:
1. Only harvest oysters from June 1 to October 1 once you have developed an approved vibrio plan
2. Verify that shellfish is fresh and harvested from an approved area.
3. Make sure shellfish is stored under proper refrigeration or on ice.
4. Any high-risk consumers should enjoy their shellfish cooked and avoid all raw animal proteins.
For more on Vibrio Education in Maine please find the attached links.