Ministers Report on the Increasing Public Health Threat Associated with Conch Poisoning

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Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Duane Sands (left) and Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources, the Hon. Michael Pintard are pictured during a press conference concerning conch poisoning at the Ministry of Health, Thursday, July 26, 2018. (BIS Photo/Kristaan Ingraham)

The Ministries of Health, Environment, and Agriculture in partnership with the Water and Sewerage Corporation held a press conference at the Ministry of Health, Thursday, July 26, in reference to concerns about the increasing public health threat associated with conch poisoning which began late last month. Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Duane Sands announced that the public health threat has economic and social implications. He said the Ministry can make the public aware that there are 27 laboratory-confirmed conch poisoning cases, and 22 clinical cases awaiting laboratory confirmation. Minister Sands said the poisoning is caused by eating raw conch contaminated with the bacteria Vibrio parahaemolyticus.

This organism lives normally in seawater in warm and tropical regions inclusive of The Bahamas. With the on-going climate change that is affecting the temperature of our seawater, this organism increases, particularly during the summer months. Contamination can occur in the natural environment as well as when the conch is exposed to and stored in seawater prior to preparation. Government agencies have strengthened collaboration to mitigate against further cases of poisoning. In this regard, in accordance with legislation, the Minister said all vendors who wish to continue with the sale of raw conch dishes may only do so if they demonstrate the presence of fresh running water linked to the city supply. Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources, the Hon. Michael Pintard said while the Government does not wish to revoke anyone’s license, persons that sell conch are advised that it is of utmost importance that the conch is thoroughly washed in fresh running water when being prepared for consumption.

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