Health officials in the United States are warning consumers not to eat raw oysters harvested from a specific bay in British Columbia, Canada, after linking norovirus illnesses in Minnesota, Washington and other states to the oysters.

Twenty-nine Minnesotans have been sickened in this outbreak. They became ill with confirmed or suspected norovirus gastroenteritis after eating raw oysters at Travail Kitchen in Robbinsdale on March 20. The oysters served were Stellar Bay Gold oysters harvested on March 10 from Deep Bay in British Columbia, Canada.

An investigation by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) into the norovirus outbreak has led to numerous oyster recalls

According to the CFIA, as of March 30, 2022, there have been 279 cases of norovirus and gastrointestinal illness in Canada linked to consumption of B.C. oysters reported in the following provinces: B.C. (262), Alberta (1), Saskatchewan (1), and Ontario (15).

The Minnesota Department of Health, Hennepin County Public Health, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture are working with federal officials and public health agencies in other states and Canada to investigate norovirus illnesses associated with oysters harvested from Bay 14-8 in British Columbia.

“Travail Kitchen quickly brought the cases to our attention, and immediately stopped serving oysters,” said Duane Hudson, Hennepin County Public Health, Environmental Health manager. “We are grateful to Travail for their help in protecting the public from foodborne illnesses.”

Officials are urging restaurants and distributors to check shellstock tags and discard oysters from this harvest area. Consumers can ask oyster suppliers or restaurants to check the shellstock tag for the harvest location.

Norovirus illnesses in Washington
Since March 13, there have been a reported 27 illnesses connected to the consumption of raw oysters in the Seattle and King County area.  Public Health routinely reports the illnesses to Washington State Department of Health (DOH) Shellfish Program, which is responsible for tracking the harvest locations of the oysters implicated in these illnesses.

As of now, there has not been any confirmation that the oysters came from Deep Bay in British Columbia, Canada.

About norovirus infections
People with norovirus illness usually develop symptoms of gastroenteritis within 24 to 48 hours, but symptoms can start as early as 12 hours after exposure.

The illness often begins suddenly. Even after having the illness, you can still become re-infected by norovirus. The main symptoms of norovirus illness are diarrhea, vomiting (children usually experience more vomiting than adults), nausea and stomach cramps.

Other symptoms may include low-grade fever, headache, chills, muscle aches and fatigue (a general sense of tiredness). Most people feel better within one or two days, with symptoms resolving on their own, and experience no long-term health effects. As with any illness causing diarrhea or vomiting, people who are ill should drink plenty of liquids to replace lost body fluids and prevent dehydration. In severe cases, patients may need to be hospitalized and given fluids intravenously.

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