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U.S. outbreak traced to oysters from Canada, Calif. and Oregon Affected

Federal officials in the United States are investigating a multi-state outbreak of norovirus infections traced to raw oysters from Canada.

As of April 6, more than 90 illnesses had been reported from 13 states, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the oysters were distributed to retailers and restaurants in all 13 states were illnesses are reported. Oysters can be contaminated with norovirus from dirty water that has sewage or vomit in it.

“State and local public health officials are interviewing people about the foods they ate a day to four days before they got sick. In interviews, many of the sick people reported eating raw oysters,” according to the CDC.

“State and local officials have collected information about the source of oysters from restaurants where sick people ate. FDA has confirmed that potentially contaminated raw oysters were harvested in the south and central parts of Baynes Sound, British Columbia, Canada. The FDA and the states are conducting a trace forward investigation to determine where the raw oysters were distributed and to ensure they’re removed from the food supply.”

No recalls have been issued in the United States, but several are underway in Canada.

Both the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration in the United States are warning consumers, restaurants and retailers against eating or selling oysters from certain harvest areas in British Columbia, Canada.

The CDC warning states: Do not serve or sell raw oysters harvested from the following harvest locations (or landfiles) within the south and central parts of Baynes Sound, British Columbia, Canada:

  • Landfiles #1407063, #1411206, #278737 in BC 14-8 and #1400036, in BC 14-15.
  • “Baynes Sound” will show on product tags as “14-8”and/or “DEEP BAY”, or “14-15.”.

Officials say consumers should not eat or buy raw oysters in restaurants or retailers unless the seller knows where the oysters were harvested.

“Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States. However, state, local, and territorial health departments are not required to report individual cases of norovirus illness to a national surveillance system. That’s why we may not know about many cases, especially if people do not go to a doctor’s office or hospital,” according to the CDC notice on the outbreak.

“If you have oysters at home from any of the areas listed above, throw them away. Clean any utensils or food preparation surfaces that may have touched the oysters. If you think you might have gotten sick from eating possibly contaminated raw oysters, talk to your healthcare provider and report your illness to your local health department.”

About norovirus
Symptoms of norovirus infection 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 some may need medical attention for dehydration.

People with norovirus infections can spread the infection easily to others. The virus can live o n surfaces for long periods of time.