Oyster beds in Plymouth, Kingston, Duxbury, and Marshfield are closed until further notice because a pathogen that can cause nausea, fever, and other ailments has been linked to those areas, state officials said Friday.
The pathogen, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, has been tied to oysters harvested in the beds, the state Department of Public Health and Division of Marine Fisheries said in a joint statement.
Officials said the shuttered beds are in Plymouth Harbor, Kingston Bay, Duxbury Bay, Bluefish River, and Back River.
Harvesting oysters in these areas is prohibited during the closure, and officials have launched a recall of oysters collected from the affected spots since July 22, according to the statement. It is the first Vibrio outbreak linked to a specific harvest area in the Bay State, officials said.
“We understand the impact this may have on many of our local businesses,” said Cheryl Bartlett, the state’s public health commissioner. “We are committed to partnering with industry to ensure the public’s health and safety through a successful Vibrio control plan. The most important step of this plan is to eliminate possible sources of exposure to prevent future food-borne illness.”
Shore Gregory, president of Island Creek Oysters, a major harvester based in Duxbury, said in a statement that his company goes “to great lengths to ensure the safety of the food we grow” and meet or exceed federal guidelines.
“Because our customers are our number one priority we are recalling product sold from the affected areas since July 22, 2013,” Gregory said. “We realize most of the many hundreds of thousands of oysters harvested and enjoyed during that time period were safely consumed weeks ago; however, as committed, lifelong farmers of course we would err on the side of caution in this instance.”
Public health officials have linked three cases of Vibrio illness to oysters consumed from the affected areas, including two cases where oysters were eaten outside Massachusetts, the statement said. All three victims recovered.
Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The illness usually lasts for three days, but people with weak immune systems may experience serious health problems, the CDC said on its website.
About 10 percent of victims may require hospitalization for blood infections, state officials said.
In Massachusetts, officials have received 50 confirmed reports of the infection in residents since May 31, compared with 27 cases during the same time period last year, authorities said.
“Vibrio is an emerging, naturally occurring bacterial pathogen often found in oysters harvested from warmer waters,” said the statement from the Massachusetts agencies. “It is not related to pollution of Massachusetts shellfish.”
Bob Luz, president and chief executive of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, said in a statement that his group “has full confidence in the suppliers and food service establishments in [Massachusetts] who take the safety of our guests very seriously and have tracking and tagging procedures in place to ensure that these products will not be served.”
A statewide Vibrio Control Plan took effect in May, with a number of provisions including requirements that harvested oysters be adequately protected from sunlight while in transit and that they be placed in containers with a sufficient amount of ice.Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.