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County issues warning about eating raw oysters

SAN DIEGO COUNTY – While eating raw oysters is a favorite indulgence of many people during summer months, it could increase risk for gastrointestinal illness.

The County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) is advising the public to be aware of the potential health dangers and risks associated with eating raw oysters.

“Thoroughly cooked oysters reduce the risk of illness from bacteria,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., county public health officer. “It is important for consumers to know about the risks of eating raw oysters.”

HHSA recommends eating oysters that are from a safe and approved source.

If preparing oysters, it is important to only purchase oysters with their shells closed and to properly refrigerate them to minimize the growth of bacteria.

Cooking oysters thoroughly destroys the bacteria, eliminating the risk of illness. Oysters should be boiled for an additional three to five minutes after the shells open. Wash hands well after handling raw oysters.

Occasionally, oysters have been found to contain Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a common type of bacteria in salt water, typically found in higher concentrations during summer. When an oyster containing these bacteria is eaten, gastrointestinal symptoms such as watery diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills may occur. While Vibrio parahaemolyticus infection from eating raw oysters can cause mild illness in healthy individuals, older people and those with liver disease or weak immune systems are at greater risk for more serious complications.

If someone displays those symptoms relating to Vibrio bacteria, their healthcare provider should be contacted. For more information, visit

or, or call the FDA Food Safety hotline at (888) SAFEFOOD.


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