OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has updated its advisory to Washington residents to not serve or eat certain oysters harvested from the south and central parts of Baynes Sound, British Columbia, Canada until further notice. The advisory is in alignment with the recent release from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on a multi-state outbreak of norovirus illness linked to raw oysters.
Twenty-six Washington residents have reported norovirus-like illness after eating oysters from harvest areas BC 14-8 and 14-15 since March 7, 2022. Illnesses have been reported from residents of Clark, King, and Snohomish counties, though the oyster distribution may extend further into Washington state. Individuals who order oysters from a restaurant or retailer should verify the oyster source to ensure they have not been harvested in British Columbia harvest areas BC 14-8 or 14-15. Retailers are being asked to stop selling oysters.
Consuming raw shellfish may increase your risk of foodborne illness. People who are immune-compromised, such as those being treated for cancer, pregnant women, and individuals with other chronic health conditions, are at increased risk of severe illness. Advice on handling and cooking oysters can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. They also have information about preventing norovirus outbreaks.
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. Individuals who think they became sick after eating raw or undercooked shellfish should speak to their physician and notify their local health jurisdiction.
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.
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