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Tallahassee, Florida

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Bizarre Incident Highlights Danger of Eating Raw Seafood

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Medical examiners in Panama City, Florida say that a man who died following a high-speed police chase had a rare form of cholera-causing bacterium.

Steven M. Harrison was unconscious in the back seat of a car that led police on a Sept. 23 chase. Sheriff’s officials were initially warned Harrison may have had a different flesh-eating bacterial disease.

Medical examiners said Monday he instead had vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium usually caused by raw seafood. He was susceptible to infection because of a weak liver. According to the Center for Disease Control, the bacterium is rare but most prominent in the Gulf Coast states, where more than 900 cases were reported from 1988 to 2006.

This incident highlights the dangers of eating raw seafood. Individuals with certain medical conditions may be at a high risk for becoming seriously ill and dying from eating raw oysters contaminated with a naturally-occurring bacteria.

Potentially life-threatening to most people, symptoms of Vibrio vulnificus infection occurs within 24 to 48 hours of ingestion and may include symptoms such as sudden chills, fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shock and skin lesions. People with certain medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes or liver disease can die from infection within two days. Anyone showing signs of these symptoms after eating raw oysters should seek medical attention immediately and inform the health care professional on duty that they’ve eaten raw oysters.

For more information about food safety litigation, contact the Smith & Vanture firm.