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Publication #FAR8715

Susceptible People and Raw Oysters 1

Amy Simonne and Donna Davis2

Figure 1. 
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I have fond memories of boating on the Florida Gulf Coast off Captiva Island during my college years. My roommate, who grew up there, never had a second thought about pulling an oyster out of the Gulf, cracking it open, and eating it right out of the shell. I was never so brave.

Millions of families spend time on the water in search of oysters, clams, and other seafood, and many of them enjoy eating their catch raw. But if you have family members with liver, stomach, kidney or blood disorders, cancer, diabetes, or AIDS, you should be aware that a bacterium found in raw seafood could make them seriously ill. Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that is naturally present in warm marine environments, such as the Gulf of Mexico. For most healthy individuals, infection caused by the bacterium is not potentially life-threatening, but, according to the CDC, infections in high-risk populations are fatal 50% of the time.

If a family member experiences flu-like symptoms after eating raw oysters, you should seek medical attention immediately. And perhaps you've heard that eating raw oysters in a month with the letter "R" is safe? Well, not exactly. It is true that during the summer months (when the water is warmer), the organism is found in higher levels. However, according to the CDC, 40% of cases occur during those colder months from September through April. While this is not cause to give up the tasty treat, be aware of the risks to family members with compromised immune systems!

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website at

To listen to the radio broadcast:


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2005). Vibrio vulnificus. [10 September 2012].

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2003, April). Raw oyster myths. Retrieved August 3, 2007, from

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2003, April). Raw oysters contaminated with vibrio vulnificus can cause illness and death. Retrieved August 3, 2007, from

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2005, June). Letter to health professionals regarding the risk of vibrio vulnificus septicemia associated with the consumption of raw oysters. Retrieved August 2, 2007, from

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2007). Seafood information and resources. Retrieved August 2, 2007, from [29 June 2012]. [29 June 2012].



This document is FAR8715, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 353. Published February 2009. Revised April 2009. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Amy Simonne, associate professor and Donna Davis, senior producer, Family Album Radio, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.