An Oregon norovirus outbreak that has sickened 17 people has been linked to oysters from Yaquina Bay, according to the Oregon Health Authority. All of those sickened ate the oysters at Lincoln County restaurants between February 12 and February 14. One person was hospitalized, all have recovered.
Tests performed on an unopened jug of oysters collected from a restaurant tested positive for the same strain of norovirus found in stool samples from three of those sickened.
A recall has been issued by Oregon Oyster Farms Inc. in Newport for raw, ready-to-eat shucked oysters sold in half-gallons, one-pint plastic tubs and 10-ounce plastic jars, with sell-by dates of February 19 through March 8. And for oysters sold in mesh bags containing five dozen in-shell oysters with harvest dates of February 5 through February 15.
The recalled oysters were sold to restaurants and retail stores in Oregon, wholesalers in New York and Massachusetts, and at its on-site store. Customers should not serve and and consumers not eat the recalled oysters. The company is offering refunds.
Health officials are trying to determine if the contamination occurred while the oysters were in their beds or after they were harvested. The outbreak underscores the risk associated with consuming raw shellfish, said Emilio DeBess, DVM, state public health veterinarian with the Public Health Division’s Acute and Communicable Disease Prevention Section.
“You’re really taking your chances when you don’t cook oysters before you eat them,” he said. “There’s risk of not only contracting norovirus, but also more serious infections such as Vibrio, which causes vibriosis. Our recommendation is that people avoid eating oysters or any shellfish unless they’re cooked thoroughly, especially individuals who are immune compromised, elderly, or children.”
Norovirus is the most common cause of food poisoning outbreaks in Oregon and the United States. It is highly contagious causing diarrhea and vomiting that lasts one to two days. Because people can transmit the disease for two days after symptoms resolve, public health officials recommend that during an outbreak, affected persons remain home from school or work for 48 hours after symptoms resolve.