Public health agencies link norovirus outbreak to BC oysters

Public health agencies are warning of an outbreak of foodborne illness believed to be linked to raw oysters imported from British Columbia.

Since March 12, Public Health – Seattle & King County has reported more than 40 different cases of foodborne illness, all suspected of being linked to eating raw oysters. With Seattle restaurants responsible for the bulk of suspected oyster disease cases, the department also reported cases in Federal Way, Issaquah, Kirkland and Woodinville.

Norovirus, which health officials say can often be transmitted by raw oysters, is believed to be the disease in all reported King County cases.

During the first week of April, the Washington Department of Health and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued public alerts after identifying outbreaks of norovirus suspected of originating from oysters imported from parts south and central Baynes Sound in British Columbia. , Canada.

As of April 6, at least 103 norovirus illnesses have been reported in 13 states, including California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, l Oregon and Texas. Washington has the most reported cases of any state with 62, followed by California with 34 cases.

On April 8, health officials in Canada reported 293 cases of illness linked to the consumption of raw oysters since the start of the year.

The United States Food and Drug Administration has advised restaurants and retailers not to serve or sell potentially contaminated raw oysters from Canada.

Food safety attorney Bill Marler said shellfish are filter feeders. So when norovirus enters water through sewage and vomits up from leaky septic systems, faulty sewage treatment plants, boaters or beachgoers, oysters can introduce the virus into their bodies.

According to the Washington Department of Health, symptoms of a norovirus infection can include vomiting and diarrhea, nausea, muscle aches, fever, and headache. Symptoms usually begin 12 to 48 hours after eating contaminated food and last for one to three days. Most people recover without treatment.

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