By Lefteris Karagiannopoulos
OSLO (Reuters) - The southern Nordic fjords are heating up as Europe boils, and bacteria there are flourishing, infecting swimmers and seafood, including oysters that can take months until they are safe to eat again, Norway's food safety authority said.
The warm waters in southern Norway and Sweden have accelerated the reproduction of the vibrio bacteria, a species that can cause vibriosis, an illness with symptoms as simple as diarrhea and stomachache but which can also be fatal.
The water in Norway's southern fjords reached 24 degrees Celsius, about 4C higher than average for the season, and the bacteria in the local sea ecosystem have been traced in much larger quantities than usual.
They have already infected the wounds of several swimmers in the Oslo fjord, where people have arrived in droves to beat the heat, but they can also infect people eating raw seafood, the food safety authority said.
"Eating raw oysters is common for Norwegians. People go to cabins during the summer, dive for oysters and eat them... It can take months for raw oysters to be safe again as the water needs to cool," the authority's seafood safety head Lise Rokkone told Reuters.
The fjords are rich with trout and salmon at certain times of year, but eating raw fish should also be avoided, said Rokkone, days after the authority issued an oyster consumption warning.
The extreme heatwave that hit the Nordics this summer has also affected cattle feed, she said, forcing many farmers to either seek feed from Northern Norway or import.
Infected oysters are not however the only heat-related inconvenience Norwegians have to face this summer.
As well as an outdoor barbecue ban barring everyone from heading outside to cook, the number of snake bite incidents has doubled from last year as more people spend time in the forest, while drivers have to be careful in tunnels, where reindeer have taken to sheltering from the heat.
Last week, the Norwegian church even asked believers to light candles and pray for a change in the weather.
(Reporting by Lefteris Karagiannopoulos; Editing by Hugh Lawson)