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Oysters Are Making People Sick Right Now—Here's Why

Pair your glass of rosé with another appetizer for the rest of the month.

If you live on the coasts, it's very likely that oysters are one of the several dishes you and your friends order for the table during happy hour. However, if you're living on the west coast, you may want to hold off on eating raw oysters for a while.

According to KING5, a local news outlet in Seattle, Washington, at least 52 cases of vibriosis have been reported in July, which surpasses previous records for the month. Vibriosis is a bacterial illness that's contracted by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, but especially oysters.

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So far, 30 of these cases have been linked to eating oysters. The cause for this unusually high number of vibriosis cases could be due to the record-breaking heatwave that has been burdening Washington and other states along the west coast since June.

It's true—the treacherous heatwave that has already killed 112 people in the state may also be the reason culprit behind bacteria-containing oysters. On July 16, the Washington State Department of Health released an announcement that said, "Recent high temperatures and low tides in Washington State are likely to blame for the increased rate of illness."

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The Vibrio bacteria that cause the illness in humans thrive in warmer temperatures and as midday low tides coincide with warm weather, the bacteria grow more rapidly, increasing the risk of illness. Symptoms of vibriosis include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, and fever, and they can appear between four hours to four days after consuming contaminated shellfish.

Food for thought: Maybe summer 2021 is the summer of baked oysters?

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Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of <Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more
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