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In a New Report, Researchers Warn Against Eating Raw Seafood

A new report from the CDC discovered a foodborne pathogen in U.S. seafood.
assorted sushi platter

How delicious does a sushi roll sound for dinner tonight? Well, you might want to hold off on eating raw salmon. According to new research published by the CDC, there's an emerging food pathogen in raw salmon that could cause serious symptoms. So far, only one person has been affected—and it happened a year ago—but the CDC has still found reason to sound the alarm.

Last December, an 87-year-old man from Flushing, New York, was rushed to the emergency room in response to severe lower right abdominal pain. The man was summarily diagnosed with acute appendicitis. However, the scan showed something else peculiar: multiple abscesses.

After a year of tests, it was determined that the culture from the abscesses revealed a strain of a bacteria called, Shewanella haliotis.

"S. haliotis is an emerging human pathogen, first isolated from abalone gut microflora in 2007. The geographic distribution of human infections caused by S. haliotis is concentrated in Asia, with most reports coming from China, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand," as stated in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The bacteria hadn't affected anyone in the United States until last year.

"No cases of S. haliotis human infections had been reported in the World Health Organization's Region of the Americas."

But again, only one person has been contaminated on this side of the ocean thus far. At the same time, however, it's important to be aware that the bacteria exists—and could become more prominent in North America.

The most daunting part? The man had eaten the contaminated salmon 10 days before he first felt symptoms, which is in line with literature about Shewanella haliotis: Symptoms can arise anywhere between three and 49 days after consumption. Think about that for a second. You could have eaten raw salmon that was tainted with the bacteria more than a month ago and not have any abnormal symptoms until now or in the following week.

Here's something else to consider: It's not just raw salmon that could make you sick—all marine life is potentially risky. Researchers noted that the bacteria is widespread in marine environments, which includes "broad contamination of cultivated shellfish."

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So, what's the major takeaway from this report? The case of the elderly man shows there is a direct link between raw fish consumption and infection, which is enough incentive for the CDC to warn the public.

"This case highlights the importance of preventing seafood-associated infections," write the report's authors, "and the need to consider rare human pathogens in elderly or immunocompromised, marine-exposed populations, as well as persons who might consume at-risk food that might have been imported from outside the United States and persons who might have been infected outside the United States when traveling."

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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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