State and federal officials are investigating a multi-state outbreak of norovirus infections traced to raw oysters from Texas.
As of today an estimated 211 people have become sick in the outbreak which stretches along the Gulf Coast and into Georgia and Tennessee, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal agency is still working on getting a firm number of illnesses while it consults with state officials
On Dec. 15 the Food and Drug Administration posted a warning about oysters harvested from harvest area TX 1, Galveston Bay, TX. The warning came after about 30 people had fallen ill.
“On Dec. 8, 2022, the Texas Department of State Health Services issued a recall on all oysters harvested between 11/17/2022 and 12/7/2022 from harvest area TX 1, Galveston Bay, Texas. They also informed the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference who notified other member states. This resulted in other states initiating recall measures consistent with the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference Agreement,” the CDC notice states.
The website iwaspoisoned.com received reports of 72 people in the New Orleans area becoming sick after eating raw oysters. Those reports started coming in on Nov. 30, according to Patrick Quade, the founder of the website.
According to the CDC the sick people in the outbreak live in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
“Restaurants and food retailers should not serve raw oysters from harvest area TX 1, Galveston Bay, Texas, harvested between Nov. 17, 2022, and Dec. 7, 2022, which will be printed on product tags, according to the CDC alert.
“The FDA has confirmed that raw oysters harvested in area TX 1, Galveston Bay, Texas, were potentially contaminated with norovirus and distributed to restaurants and retailers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. It is possible that additional states received these oysters through further distribution within the U.S.”
If eaten raw, oysters and other filter-feeding shellfish can contain viruses and bacteria that can cause illness or death, according to the CDC. Anyone who consumes raw shellfish is at risk of contracting norovirus. Children younger than five years old, the elderly, and those people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe infections. Food contaminated with norovirus may look, smell, or taste normal. To avoid food poisoning from oysters, cook them well to a temperature of at least 145 degrees F.
Symptoms of norovirus may include vomiting and/or diarrhea, nausea, muscle aches, fever, and headache, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms typically start 12 to 48 hours after exposure and can last for one to three days. Most people recover without treatment, however vomiting and diarrhea may be so severe that some people may need medical attention for dehydration.
People with norovirus infections can spread the infection easily to others. The virus can live on surfaces for long periods of time.
To prevent others from getting sick always wash hands carefully with soap and warm water after using the bathroom or changing diapers. Use soap and water to clean toilets or other areas that may be soiled with stool or vomit. Hard surfaces can be disinfected with 1/3 cup household bleach mixed with one gallon of water – always wear gloves when handling bleach-based cleaners. Wash soiled clothing and bedding in hot water and detergent. Soft surfaces that cannot be laundered can be steam cleaned.