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Oysters May Be Tied To Norovirus Outbreak

Dec 7, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising consumers to avoid eating oysters harvested from the San Antonio Bay on or after November 16 due to reports of norovirus-associated illnesses in some people who had consumed oysters harvested from this area, which is located on the Gulf of Texas.

Norovirus, a group of viruses that cause gastroenteritis are not helped with antibiotics. People become infected by eating food or drinking liquids contaminated with norovirus; touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth; and having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms. People may feel very sick and vomit many times a day. Sometimes people are unable to drink enough liquids to replenish the liquids lost due to vomiting and diarrhea and can become dehydrated and require special medical attention.

The FDA, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas, are investigating about a dozen reports of norovirus-related illnesses from South Carolina and North Carolina consumers who ate oysters recently harvested from the San Antonio Bay.

The FDA is urging consumers who purchased oysters on or after November 16 that have a label showing they came from San Antonio Bay are advised to dispose of the oysters and not eat them. At restaurants, consumers can ask about the source of oysters offered as menu items. Restaurant operators and retailers should not serve or offer for sale oysters subject to this advisory. Restaurant operators and retailers who are unsure of the source of oysters on hand should check with their suppliers to determine from where the oysters were harvested. No other seafood is affected by this advisory.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has ordered a recall of all oysters harvested from the San Antonio Bay between November 16 and 25.

Consumers who ate oyster products on or after November 16 and have experienced symptoms of norovirus are encouraged to contact their health care provider and local health department. The implicated oyster beds in the San Antonio Bay were closed by the Texas Department of Health Services on November 26, 2009, and remain closed.

The FDA and CDC will continue working with health officials in the affected states to track any additional cases of norovirus illness.

Persons with weakened immune systems, including those affected by AIDS, and persons with chronic alcohol abuse, liver, stomach or blood disorders, cancer, diabetes, or kidney disease should avoid raw oyster consumption altogether, regardless of where the oysters are harvested.

Norovirus, which can survive for weeks on surfaces at room temperature, can be difficult to eliminate, and can only be killed with chorine bleach. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers and other preparations are not too helpful. Norovirus outbreaks occur frequently in closed populations.

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