Health Officials: Cruisers Should Avoid Popular Bahamian Delicacy
You probably want to avoid eating conch in The Bahamas right now, particularly in Nassau and the surrounding area.
There have been 25 confirmed and 20 suspected cases (pending lab results) of vibrio parahaemolyticus poisoning, and that number is expected to grow as the ocean temperature in the Bahamas rises. Bahamian Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands has confirmed that over three dozen people have received medical care for conch poisoning since the new outbreak, isolated to New Providence, was announced earlier this month.
The problem isn’t the conch itself, but the water it’s stored in before preparation. Vendors selling dishes that utilize raw conch, like conch salad, can easily wash away vibrio from the conch in fresh water, but many still don’t feel the need and admit they believe storing and washing the conch in saltwater is best. Cooking conch will also eliminate the contamination, Bahamian health officials say.
Since the outbreak, health officials have been traveling around New Providence visiting vendors and posting tips on how to wash and store conch properly.
“Given the very warm temperatures we expect that the bloom of vibrio is going to intensify,” said Sands. “It is the water that the conch resides in and is stored in, etc….We know that if you rinse off the conch with copious amounts of clean, fresh water, that you can virtually, if not completely, eliminate the risk of conch poisoning – at least from vibrio.”
As a visitor in New Providence, whether you’re there for a landside vacation or stopping in Nassau during a cruise, it’s best to avoid conch all together right now. If you can’t resist, though, ask the vendor if it’s been thoroughly washed in fresh water. It’s better to be safe rather than sorry.