FDA warns of raw oysters potentially contaminated with norovirus

Public health officials are warning restaurants and retailers not to serve or sell potentially contaminated raw oysters in connection with a norovirus outbreak that has sickened at least 91 people in more than a dozen US states and 279 others in Canada.

Potentially spoiled raw oysters harvested in British Columbia, Canada, have been distributed in California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington, the U.S. American Food and Drug Administration in a post updated on Wednesday.

Raw oysters linked to outbreaks of norovirus disease in several states.

US Food and Drug Administration

At least 91 cases of norovirus have been reported in these 13 states, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of the sick said they had eaten raw oysters when questioned by state and local health officials, the CDC found.

29 are affected Minnesotans who became ill after eating raw oysters at Travail Kitchen on March 20th. The restaurant has since stopped serving Stellar Bay Gold oysters.

Washington state officials said Tuesday that 26 residents had reported norovirus-like symptoms after eating British Columbia oysters since March 7.

It’s possible additional states may have received these oysters, which federal and state officials are working to remove, according to the FDA.

Canadian public health officials say there have been 279 cases of norovirus and gastrointestinal illness linked to British Columbia oysters in that province, along with Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan. Those affected fell ill between mid-January and late last month, with no deaths reported.

Oysters eaten raw can cause illness, especially in people with compromised immune systems. Food contaminated with norovirus can look, smell, and taste normal.

Norovirus infects and makes people sick 12 to 48 hours after exposure. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, fever, headache and body aches. Most people recover without treatment, but for some people — the very young, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems — norovirus infection can cause severe dehydration and even death.

Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States, with approximately 2,500 reported outbreaks each year. In addition to eating contaminated food or water, people can get norovirus from other infected people or by touching contaminated surfaces and putting unwashed hands in their mouths.

Norovirus is also sometimes referred to as the stomach flu, although the illness is unrelated to the flu, which is caused by the influenza virus.

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