Multistate Outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus Infections Linked to Fresh Crab Meat Imported from Venezuela

July 17, 2018

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local health officials, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are investigating a multistate outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections linked to eating fresh crab meat imported from Venezuela. Epidemiologic evidence indicates that precooked fresh crab meat imported from Venezuela is the likely source of this outbreak.

Twelve people infected with Vibrio parahaemolyticus who ate fresh crab meat have been reported from Maryland, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. Four people (33%) have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Illnesses started on dates ranging from April 1, 2018 to July 3, 2018.

Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to help identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. PulseNet is the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories coordinated by CDC. DNA fingerprinting is performed on Vibrio bacteria isolated from ill people by using techniques called pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole genome sequencing (WGS). CDC PulseNet manages a national database of these DNA fingerprints to identify possible outbreaks. WGS gives a more detailed DNA fingerprint than PFGE.

As of July 12, 2018, 12 people infected with Vibrio parahaemolyticus who ate fresh crab meat have been reported from 3 states and the District of Columbia. A list of the states and the number of cases in each can be found on the Case Count Map page. WGS showed that available isolates from people in this outbreak are closely related genetically. This close genetic relationship means that people in this outbreak are likely to share a common source of infection.

Additional ill people associated with this outbreak include people who reported eating crab meat and who had a diagnostic test showing they were infected with Vibrio, which may or may not be the species Vibrio parahaemolyticus.

The CDC recommends that consumers not eat, restaurants not serve, and retailers not sell fresh crab meat imported from Venezuela at this time. This type of product may be labeled as fresh or precooked. It’s commonly found in plastic containers.

Food contaminated with Vibrio parahaemolyticus usually looks, smells, and tastes normal. If you buy crab meat and do not know whether it is from Venezuela, do not eat, serve, or sell it. Throw it away.

Source: CDC