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Oysters from BC linked to norovirus-like illnesses in Washington

oyster on halfshell credit mark skipper via flickr
Oyster on a half-shell (2007). Credit: Mark Skipper via flickr

Officials at the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) advise Washington residents to not eat or serve raw oysters harvested from a Canadian growing area in British Columbia due to potential illness.

Since March 7th, 18 Washington residents have reported norovirus-like illness after eating oysters collected from harvest area BC 14-8 in British Columbia, Canada. Harvest area will be indicated on the shellfish tag.

DOH officials say they do not have specific distribution information for Washington locations at this time.

Individuals who order raw oysters from a restaurant should ensure they were not harvested from harvest area BC 14-8. Oysters from harvest area BC 14-8 should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F for 15 seconds to kill potential norovirus.

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Consumers and retailers are encouraged to not eat or serve raw oysters harvested from Bay 14-8 in British Columbia at this time. Norovirus can be destroyed by fully cooking shellfish to 145°F for 15 seconds before eating.

Symptoms of Norovirus infection may include vomiting and/or diarrhea, nausea, muscle aches, fever, and headache. Symptoms typically start 12 to 48 hours after consumption and can last for one to three days. Most people recover without treatment.

People with Norovirus infection can spread the infection easily to others. To prevent others from getting sick always wash hands carefully with soap and warm water after using the bathroom or changing diapers. Use soap and water to clean toilets or other areas that may be soiled with stool or vomit. Hard surfaces can be disinfected with 1/3 cup household bleach mixed with one gallon of water – always wear gloves when handling bleach-based cleaners. Wash soiled clothing and bedding in hot water and detergent. Soft surfaces that cannot be laundered can be steam cleaned.

Whatcom County residents who think they became sick after eating raw or undercooked shellfish should speak to their physician and notify officials at the Whatcom County Health Department.

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