Health officials are warning area residents not to eat raw oysters after the confirmation of a three cases of a bacterial-borne illness associated with the shellfish, along with two suspected cases.
"We’re warning people against the consumption of raw oysters until the ban is lifted by the states of Washington and California," Director of County Environmental Health Dean Peterson said.
The bacteria, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, is naturally found in oysters, and it is most prevalent during the warm summer months, when water temperatures in the Pacific Northwest are favorable for its growth, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"Vp can cause mild gastrointestinal disorders in healthy individuals; older persons and those with weak immune systems are at a greater risk for more serious illness," according to a prepared statement by the FDA.
Consumers are advised to thoroughly cook oysters harvested from the Pacific Northwest, officials said.
Washington state has initiated a recall of all shell stock oysters that are harvested from infected areas, according to the FDA statement.
For more information on the effects of Vp or suggestions on how to prepare oysters to prevent becoming sick, visit the Web site www.smhealth.org/environ/index.shtml.