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Coastal Bend should not expect impacts from recent oyster recall, state official says

DSHS is evaluating the TX-1 area of Galveston Bay for contaminants. They issued a recall for oysters harvested from there as of Nov. 17.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Texas Department of state Health Services took action this week to shut down oyster harvesting in one area of Galveston Bay.

Officials said local health departments reported people getting sick after eating oysters from TX-1, the southeastern part of the bay.

DSHS Spokesperson Chris Van Deusen told 3NEWS there were reports of dozens affected with various gastrointestinal illnesses. Three people tested positive for norovirus  -- a concern with oysters harvested from Canada back in April.

"40 plus cases of gastrointestinal illness," Van Deusen said. "Kind of the things you would think of, you know, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, fever, chills, those kinds of things, and all those folks had one thing in common: they'd eaten oysters from this particular part of Galveston Bay."

Local oyster businesses said they're taking action to keep customers safe.

"It reinforces our decision to have our farm," said Water Street Restaurants president Richard Lomax. "I mean, we're happy with the waters we're growing them in and the flavors that's coming out of it and it makes us more versatile when certain supply streams get shut down."

Lomax said his business is working with vendors to make sure none of their oysters are from TX-1 in Galveston Bay. They have already transitioned 10-20% of their 750,000 oysters served annually to local farms -- a trend he said is coming across the industry. 

"I think we're already at that point. The wild oysters are getting as expensive as the farmed oysters because of the low supply in events like these. So, I think it's going to happen very quickly," Lomax said.

Water Street Oyster Bar has their own farm in Copono Bay. Lomax said that allows them to harvest year-round while holding themselves to the same safety standards they would harvesting wild oysters. He said that is why people can feel safe eating their oysters despite infected ones in Galveston Bay.

"It does seem to be centered, at least as far as we know now, on Galveston Bay and these particular parts of Galveston Bay. So there's not a concern for other types of fish or shellfish and not a concern for other, you know, shellfish that have been harvested from other parts of Texas," Lomax said.

Van Deusen said DSHS is evaluating the TX-1 area of Galveston Bay for contaminants. They issued a recall for oysters harvested from there as of Nov. 17, and recommend throwing out all oysters harvested since then. He said the Coastal Bend should not be affected.

DSHS said they are working with local health departments to test those reported sick so far. They ask anyone who ate oysters and are feeling sick to tell their doctor so officials can determine the cause.

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