Holy Ghost Association warned for improper shellfish tagging

Feast organizer vows to be more cautious in the future. 

A person was infected by Vibrio from a shellfish consumed during the Feast of the Holy Ghost. —Angelina Topalieva

One case of vibrio was linked to improper tagging of shellfish at the Feast of the Holy Ghost, held in Oak Bluffs earlier this summer.

According to Oak Bluffs assistant health agent Alexa Arieta, Dukes County–appointed food inspector Drew Belsky followed up with state food inspector Steve Rice because of a case of vibrio stemming from the feast, hosted annually by the Holy Ghost Association. 

Vibrio is a bacteria found in some coastal areas that can cause vibriosis, a bacterial infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bacteria are found in higher concentrations between May and October, when the water is warmer. Most people become infected by consuming raw or undercooked shellfish. 

Patricia Bergeron, a longtime member of the Holy Ghost Association and organizer of the feast, was present during an Oak Bluffs board of health meeting on Tuesday. 

Oysters and quahogs have been brought in for the feast many times, according to Bergeron. Bergeron said her stepson, a wholesaler, agreed to tag the oysters and quahogs. 

However, she said that he had gone to Chilmark when the shellfish arrived on July 14, and Bergeron decided to tag the shellfish herself; she didn’t want to force him to come back to do the work. 

Bergeron underscored that the improper shellfish tagging was her fault. 

Tagging containers of shellfish keeps records of who harvested the shellfish, where the animals were harvested, and the species and amount shipped. 

“But never, at any time, were these handled improperly,” Bergeron said, saying the shellfish were immediately put on ice. 

Around 600 shellfish were brought in for the feast from local sources, although some of them were already tagged by local wholesalers. 

When board chair William White asked how long Bergeron had been the feast’s organizer, she said it was at least 20 years. “This is the first case of vibrio, ever,” Bergeron said. 

Arieta said the town tracks cases of illness caused by vibrio throughout the summer, and this year there were very few instances of the infection. 

“As a licensed food establishment in town, these types of things happen,” she said, continuing that it was still problematic that the report by the state’s Department of Public Health says the wholesaler had “no knowledge” about the tags on the shellfish. 

Bergeron said some of the details in the state’s report were inaccurate, such as an incorrect source for the shellfish. She plans to contact Rice about the discrepancies. 

“Fortunately, it wasn’t a lethal situation … or severe,” White said. “That doesn’t take away from the responsibility, but fortunately it was only one person.”

After further discussion, the board gave a warning to Bergeron and the association. No penalties were dealt over the incident.


  1. Oysters must be farmed from clean & Cold waters And iced immediately!! I’m only eating cooked Oysters during the hot summer season! No Vibreo🇱🇷😎🙏🏻

  2. These were NOT Oysters. It was a quahog. NEVER at any time were the quahogs handled improperly, they were tagged improperly which I take full responsibility for.

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