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Climate Change Linked to Cruise Ship Illness Outbreaks

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  • mtneuman@juno.com
    Climate Change Linked to Cruise Ship Illness Outbreaks USA: October 6, 2005 BOSTON - Warming ocean waters may have tainted Alaskan oysters with a bacteria that
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 6, 2005
      Climate Change Linked to Cruise Ship Illness Outbreaks

      USA: October 6, 2005

      BOSTON - Warming ocean waters may have tainted Alaskan oysters with a
      bacteria that triggered four outbreaks of illness on a cruise ship among
      people who ate the shellfish raw, researchers reported on Wednesday.

      "The rising temperatures of ocean water seem to have contributed to one
      of the largest known outbreaks of Vibrio parahaemolyticus in the United
      States," said Joseph McLaughlin of the Alaska Department of Health and
      Social Services, referring to the bacterium responsible for outbreak.
      He and his colleagues said 62 people fell ill on four week-long cruises
      in July 2004. Vibrio parahaemolyticus is the most common cause of
      seafood-related illness in the United States.

      "Alaskan waters were thought to be too cold to support" bacteria levels
      known to cause the illness, said the McLaughlin team. But when they
      tracked the outbreaks, the source turned out to be an oyster farm in
      Prince William Sound, 621 miles (1,000 km) north of any previous source
      of tainted oysters.

      Further tests showed that other oyster facilities in Alaska's Kachemak
      Bay and southeast Alaska had also begun to harbor the bacteria, which is
      only believed to grow in oysters where water temperatures are higher than
      59 F (15 degrees Celsius).

      Temperature records from the area showed that the waters were more tepid
      than at any time in recent history. The data also showed that
      temperatures at the site have climbed gradually since 1976.

      Based on the study in the New England Journal of Medicine, "we can't say
      why ocean temperatures are rising," McLaughlin told Reuters.

      But many climate experts have warned that warmer ocean waters are a
      likely consequence of carbon dioxide pollution, which traps heat that
      would normally radiate back into space.

      Scientists predict that warmer temperatures will generate stronger storms
      and shift local climate conditions, spreading various illnesses to new

      "This is probably some of the best evidence to date that rising
      temperatures in ocean waters might contribute to the incidence of
      disease," said McLaughlin, "so we're definitely very concerned."

      The researcher said when water temperatures at oyster farms exceed 15
      degrees Celsius, health officials should test for the virus, oyster nets
      should be moved to cooler waters, and the public should be warned to cook
      oysters before eating them.

      As a result of the findings, nets have been moved to cooler waters. "That
      seems to have worked," the researcher said.

      Most of the cruise ship travelers who fell sick had eaten just one raw
      oyster. The bacteria took 12 to 36 hours to make them ill.

      Although it is seldom fatal, people with liver disease, diabetes or
      immune system problems such as AIDS may die from the infection, which
      killed 20 people in 2004, according to the Center for Science in the
      Public Interest.

      Story by Gene Emery
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