Magazine article FDA Consumer

Cholera Bacteria in Ships' Ballast Water

Magazine article FDA Consumer

Cholera Bacteria in Ships' Ballast Water

Article excerpt

When foreign ships carry cargo to American ports, they may also harbor disease-causing cholera bacteria, U.S. health officials fear.

Last fall, FDA found cholera bacteria in the ballast and holding tank water of two freighter ships from Latin America, where the disease has been epidemic since January 1991.

Ballast water stabilizes a ship at sea, while the holding tank stores sewage and waste water.

FDA began testing additional ships in November to see if they might have brought the bacteria to U.S. waters. Cholera was found in four seafood samples taken from Mobile Bay, Ala., last summer. The strain of bacteria was the same as that causing the epidemic in Latin American countries.

Cholera is a potentially deadly intestinal disease that is easily treated and fully preventable with good sanitation. Largely because of poverty conditions, the disease has spread throughout 12 Latin American countries, causing about 3,000 deaths.

At the time FDA discovered cholera in Mobile Bay seafood samples, the beds were closed to fishing. …

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