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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Carl Kanefsky, Communications Director
(302) 540-4979, Pager

Date: August 20, 2010


Delaware's Division of Public Health advises anyone who spends time in coastal waters or dines on shellfish to take a few simple steps to avoid illness from Vibrio bacteria which become more common in marine and brackish waters this time of year. People can become infected with Vibrio after eating uncooked oysters, clams, mussels and other shellfish and by exposing open sores or burns to coastal waters. Crabs, lobster and shrimp are not associated with this illness.

Vibrio bacteria can cause gastrointestinal illness in individuals who have eaten contaminated shellfish from various sources nationwide. For 2010, 4 cases of Vibrio infection have been reported in Delaware. Five cases were reported statewide in 2009.

Vibrio bacteria do not change the appearance, taste, or odor of oysters or clams. Properly cooking shellfish as follows is the only reliable way to prevent this illness from food:


Symptoms of foodborne Vibrio can include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, severe weakness, skin rashes, blisters, shaking, chills and high fever. Serious complications are more likely to occur in individuals with liver disease, diabetes, cancer or in people taking certain medications, such as stomach acid reducers. If you have any of these symptoms after consuming shellfish, see a health care provider for treatment.

Anyone noticing redness or swelling of wounds after spending time in coastal waters should promptly see a doctor or health care provider. For information, contact DPH's Communicable Disease Bureau at 302-744-1050.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.