In the April edition of Emerging Infectious Diseases (a CDC publication), an article by FDA researchers discusses the 2012 outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections (vibriosis) in Maryland. Vibriosis is generally caused by eating raw oysters tainted with Vibrio bacteria. Most cases of vibriosis in the United States are caused by Vibrio vulnificus.
Vibrio Parahaemolyticus Caused by Cross-Contamination
The investigation of the outbreak found that the Maryland outbreak was not caused by eating raw oysters or any other seafood, but was caused by cross-contamination. This can happen if a food handler at a restaurant touches raw oysters tainted with Vibrio and then touches another food item.
For example, a cook picks up contaminated raw oysters and tosses them in a pan to lightly saute them. The cooking process kills the bacteria on the oysters, but there are cells of the bacteria on the cook’s hands. The cook does not wash his or her hands and then touches some fresh parsley that is used to garnish plates of pasta. The few cells of bacteria on the parsley could be enough to make people very sick, in some cases fatally sick.
Vibrio parahaemolyticus is not common in the United States, but the FDA believes it is becoming more of a problem here and around the world, calling these illnesses a global pandemic in the article in Emerging Infectious Diseases entitled, Pandemic Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Maryland, USA, August 2012:
When you think of a pandemic, you don’t first think of foodborne illnesses. However, a pandemic strain of bacteria that causes foodborne illness, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, has been emerging worldwide.
The FDA believes “the presence of this dangerous strain in Maryland calls for public health measures to improve its tracking and shorten response times when it is found.”
Attorney Fred Pritzker has represented people sickened by Vibrio food poisoning and families of people killed by the bacteria in lawsuits against restaurants. He agrees that public health officials should take measures to keep restaurant patrons safe:
Although there are very few reported cases of Vibrio parahaemolyticus cases in the United States, those who are sickened become severely ill and often die. Everything possible should be done to prevent these illnesses.
You can contact Fred for a free vibriosis case evaluation at 1-888-377-8900 (toll free). Fred can help you determine if you have a claim against a restaurant and can sue for compensation.