Food poisoning outbreak linked oysters: 200 people struck down

Bad oyster alert: Food poisoning outbreak linked to raw seafood sees more than 200 people struck down across at least eight states

  • More than 200 Americans across eights states have contracted norovirus
  • The food-borne illness originated from oysters harvested in Texas last month
  • No hospitalizations or deaths have been recorded as part of this outbreak 

More than 200 Americans in eight states have contracted norovirus after eating contaminated raw oysters.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put out a notice Thursday warning that the shellfish harvested in Galveston Bay, Texas, are contaminated.

These oysters were sold in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. 

The oysters have been recalled. The CDC says that any oysters in packaging that says they were harvested in area TX1 from November 17 to December 7 should be discarded.

No hospitalizations or deaths have been recorded as part of this outbreak. Norovirus is the most common food-borne illnesses in the US and is responsible for 900 annual deaths.

The warning comes after oysters harvested from South Korea were linked to sapovirus cases in the US last month.

Contaminated oysters linked to a 200-case norovirus outbreak were sold in eight US states, officials report

‘The FDA is issuing this alert advising consumers to not eat, and restaurants and food retailers to not sell, oysters harvested [during the time period],’ the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wrote in a release. 

Norovirus is highly contagious and can cause severe gastrointestinal side-effects in infected people. These include: nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

A person will often experience these symptoms within 48 hours of infection. For a majority of people, these symptoms will naturally resolve within a few days.

It can be a danger to young children, the elderly and people who are immunocompromised, though.

The CDC estimates 20million annual norovirus infections in the US, though it is near impossible to properly track this number because many sick people will weather symptoms at home without seeking medical attention.

Norovirus is responsible for 465,000 emergency room visits each year, 109,000 hospitalizations and nearly 1,000 deaths.

Officials warn that almost all of those cases are among people who are at an increased risk from the virus. 

Norovirus is also more popular in winter than in other months, with the CDC reporting that annual cases will usually peak in January.

This is not because the food-borne illness thrives in cold weather, but more so because the amount of time people spend indoors during the season allows it to rapidly spread. 

Some have dubbed the virus ‘winter vomiting disease’ as a result.

Norovirus often lingers in raw shellfish products like oysters, mussels, clams and scallops.

The CDC recommends cooking oysters to at least 145 F before eating to eliminate the risk of infection.

Norovirus is not the only danger that could be lingering in the shellfish. 

Oysters harvested in South Korea were linked to a confirmed case of sapovirus – another food-borne illness – in Las Vegas last month

There were nine other suspected infections and the FDA advised Americans to avoid raw oysters sold in 13 states.

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Norovirus is the most common stomach infections in the US and it is referred to winter vomiting bug as it usually occurs in winter.

Usually it clears up by itself within 24 to 48 hours but it can very serious for already frail patients, and can lead to dehydration.

The virus, which can also cause diarrhea, is extremely contagious and can create huge disruption in hospitals as it spreads so quickly between patients.

But the winter vomiting bug has a tendency to mutate and some strains are worse than others, leading to higher numbers of infections.