Shellfish Infected As Temperatures Rise

Norovirus is the least of your worries. A sometimes-fatal bacteria is infecting more shellfish, even as those species are moving northward to escape warmer ocean waters.

Vibrio has been making humans sick for a long time, but is more common in Europe than North America, according to National Geographic, which reported on new research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As ocean waters warm, it is proliferating and infecting shellfish. Humans can then get sick from eating raw oysters with Vibrio in their meat.

National Geographic says that this is happening despite shellfish populations moving northward to reach cooler waters. Basically, it means that they can run, but they can’t hide from the many effects of climate change.

Vibrio can also directly harm humans by infecting swimmers who have open cuts or sores. National Geographic writes:

“Vibrio can be a very serious disease: In 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 percent of Americans known to have been infected with Vibrio had to be hospitalized, and 4 percent died.

“And that’s probably an underestimate, because cases may not be recognized or properly analyzed. ‘We think Vibrio is underreported and underdiagnosed,’ Karen Wong, a physician who works on foodborne outbreaks at the CDC, tells The Plate.”
Shellfish on the West Coast were hit hard by a toxic algae bloom last year that pushed Dungeness crab season several months back. The bloom was fostered by warm waters.

Rising water temperatures aren’t just hurting ocean life. Salmon died off in big numbers last year, during a summer of record heat waves.

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