Ever since 39-year-old Dennis Sharron lost his life to a rare blood infection called Vibrio Vulnificus, raw oyster lovers have been opting for a more well-done version.
Sharron and a Panama City man who is still fighting the infection at a local hospital both ate raw oysters days before they fell ill.
The news spread fast at oyster bars around town.
"Business has dropped 75 percent on raw oysters. We still sell baked oysters, but not as many as we used to. We have baked, fried and steamed, but we've seen a big drop," says Mitch Holman, Owner of Captain's Table.
The Centers for Disease Control says those with a poor immune system or liver problems are much more likely to die from the blood infection. However, the CDC says contaminated oysters will only cause food poisoning to those in good health.
Restaurant owners say the Florida Department of Health would shut down all trade of the Apalachicola oysters if they thought they posed a widespread risk to consumers.
What Is Vibrio Vulnificus?
Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium in the same family as those that cause cholera. It normally lives in warm seawater and is part of a group of vibrios that are called "halophilic" because they require salt.
What Type of Illness Does V. Vulnificus Cause?
How Common Is V. Vulnificus Infection?
How Do Persons Get Infected/Treated?
Tips for Preventing V. Vulnificus
1. Do not eat raw oysters or other raw shellfish.
2. Cook shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels) thoroughly:
3. For shellfish in the shell, either a) boil until the shells open and continue boiling for 5 more minutes, or b) steam until the shells open and then continue cooking for 9 more minutes. Do not eat those shellfish that do not open during cooking. Boil shucked oysters at least 3 minutes, or fry them in oil at least 10 minutes at 375°F.
4. Avoid cross-contamination of cooked seafood and other foods with raw seafood and juices from raw seafood.
5. Eat shellfish promptly after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.
6. Avoid exposure of open wounds or broken skin to warm salt or brackish water, or to raw shellfish harvested from such waters.
7. Wear protective clothing (e.g., gloves) when handling raw shellfish.
Source: http://www.cds.gov (Centers for Disease Control Web site) contributed to this report.