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Am J Public Health. 1991 Oct;81(10):1268-72.

A multistate outbreak of hepatitis A caused by the consumption of raw oysters.

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Division of Field Epidemiology, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta.



In August 1988 we investigated a multistate outbreak of hepatitis A caused by Panama City, Florida, raw oysters.


Cases of hepatitis A (HA) with onset in July-August 1988 were identified among persons who ate seafoods harvested in the coastal waters of Panama City, Florida. We conducted a case-control study, using eating companions of case-patients, and calculated attack rate (AR) per 1000 dozen raw oysters served. Enzyme immunoassay (EIA) and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique were performed on samples of raw shellfish obtained from Panama City coastal waters.


Sixty-one case-patients were identified in five states: Alabama (23), Georgia (18), Florida (18), Tennessee (1), and Hawaii (1). We found an increased risk of HA for raw oyster eaters (odds ratio = 24.0; 95% confidence interval = 5.4-215.0; P less than .001). The AR of HA in seafood establishments was 1.9/1000 dozen raw oysters served. The EIA and PCR revealed HA virus antigen and nucleic acid in oysters from both unapproved and approved oyster beds, in confiscated illegally harvested oysters, and in scallops from an approved area.


The monitoring of coastal waters and the enforcement of shellfish harvesting regulations were not adequate to protect raw oyster consumers. More emphasis should be placed on increasing public awareness of health hazards associated with eating raw shellfish.

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