May 1, 2014
(RICHMOND, Va.)— The Virginia Department of Health announced today that a portion of the Rappahannock River will be closed to shellfish harvesting due to flooding. The emergency closure is effective May 1 through May 15, 2014, though the area may be reopened earlier if water quality monitoring results indicate that the area is no longer unsafe.
Maps of the affected areas are posted on the Division of Shellfish Sanitation’s home page at www.vdh.virginia.gov/EnvironmentalHealth/Shellfish/. The affected shellfish are bivalve mollusks including oysters and clams, but not crabs or fin fish.
“Monitoring shellfish harvesting beds is an important means to protect the health of Virginians,” said State Health Commissioner Marissa J. Levine, MD, MPH, FAAFP. “We watch shellfish beds for contaminants after major storms to ensure any seafood harvested there does not contain harmful substances that will make consumers of these shellfish ill.”
Heavy rainfall in a portion of the western Virginia with the ensuing runoff may have washed animal waste and human sewage into the rivers. Due to potential microbiological and chemical pollution hazards, shellfish taken from areas affected by the emergency closure are currently unacceptable for consumption.
Ingesting shellfish taken from the closed areas at this time could cause gastrointestinal illnesses including norovirus, hepatitis A and shigellosis.
For more information on shellfish closures, see the frequently asked questions on shellfish condemnations at www.vdh.virginia.gov/EnvironmentalHealth/Shellfish/faq/.