CAPE CORAL, Fla -- The temperatures are heating up, and so is the ocean. According to experts because of the warmer water, a flesh-eating bacteria is putting raw bar lovers and fishermen at risk. You may have heard of Vibrio vulnificus, a bacteria that naturally live in coastal waters, and it comes around during the warmer months.
The Florida Department of Health says seafood like oysters feed by filtering water, and higher concentrations of the dangerous bacteria can remain behind, in those oysters. The FDOH says in 2018 there were 42 cases of vibrio and nine people died from the infection. In Lee County, there were nine cases, but no one died.
Heath Hyndman, the Cape Harbour Bar, and Grill owner gets his oysters from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Canada, and here in the Gulf. Hyndman says he typically goes through oysters in one week, so they won't go bad. He says when he does get shipments in for oysters he doesn't order in bulk, he only orders several boxes at a time.
"Oysters can be bad, very quick too, they don’t have a long shelf life, and I believe it’s all about how you care for them," he said. He says some infections like Vibrio happen because some places leave oysters out in the open.
"You cannot leave them out, in this heat," Hyndman said. Hyndman says that can cause the oysters to go bad quicker. He says people do ask if it’s safe to eat the oysters from the Gulf, he says it’s all about how the distributors and restaurants manage them.
"Be clean, where your gloves, keep them cold and the oysters will be good to you," Hydman said.
If you do feel the urge to eat oysters, the FDOH says you should keep a few things in mind: Do not eat raw oysters or other raw shellfish, Eat shellfish promptly after cooking and refrigerate leftovers, and Wear protective clothing (e.g., gloves) when handling raw shellfish.