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Am J Prev Med. 1999 Jul;17(1):48-54.

Seafood-associated disease outbreaks in New York, 1980-1994.

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Bureau of Communicable Disease Control, New York State Department of Health, Albany, NY 12237, USA.



Seafood-associated disease outbreaks in New York were examined to describe their epidemiology and to identify areas for prevention and control efforts.


We reviewed reports submitted to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) of seafood-associated outbreaks occurring from January 1, 1980, through December 31, 1994.


During 1980-1994, 339 seafood-associated outbreaks were reported, resulting in 3959 illnesses, 76 hospitalizations, and 4 deaths. During this period, seafood-associated outbreaks accounted for 19% of all reported foodborne outbreaks and 10% of foodborne illnesses. Shellfish, the most frequently implicated seafood item, accounted for 64% of seafood outbreaks, followed by finfish (31% of outbreaks). Of the 148 seafood-associated outbreaks with a confirmed etiologic agent, Norwalk virus and scombrotoxin were the most frequently identified agents: Norwalk virus accounted for 42% of outbreaks and 42% of illnesses, and scombrotoxin accounted for 44% of outbreaks and 19% of illnesses. Three of the 4 seafood-associated deaths were caused by Clostridium botulinum; the remaining death was caused by Vibrio vulnificus.


Reducing the number of seafood outbreaks will require continued and coordinated efforts by many different agencies, including those involved with water quality; disease surveillance; consumer education; and seafood harvesting, processing, and marketing. New York's foodborne disease surveillance data highlight potential areas on which to focus prevention efforts, including: (1) commodities and associated pathogens causing the largest number of seafood-associated outbreaks and illnesses, namely shellfish-associated viral gastroenteritis and finfish-associated scombroid fish poisoning, and (2) venues at which seafood were most frequently consumed in reported outbreaks, such as commercial food establishments and catered events.

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