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Raw oysters from Texas linked to norovirus outbreak, CDC says

More than 200 reported illnesses have been linked to the raw oysters.

WASHINGTON — Food safety and public health regulators are warning people about Texas-harvested raw oysters linked to a norovirus outbreak. 

The raw oysters, harvested from TX 1 in Galveston Bay, Texas, between Nov. 17 and Dec. 7, were recalled after 211 gastrointestinal illnesses were reported across multiple states.

The Texas Department of State Health Services closed the TX 1 area on Dec. 8 after receiving illness reports from Southeast Texas and Florida. Soon after the recall on Dec. 9, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention launched an investigation into the norovirus outbreak.

"CDC is working with state and local partners to determine a more accurate number of illnesses in this outbreak and will update this number as more information is gathered," the agency said in the outbreak advisory.

Young children under 5, elderly and those with weakened immune systems have the highest risk of severe infection, according to the CDC. Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the U.S and there are about 2,500 reported outbreaks each year.

Oysters affected by the recall include oysters in the shell and shucked oysters, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Consumers are urged to check packaging to see if they have the recalled oysters, while restaurants should contact distributors for information on their oysters.

Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina are among the eight states in the recall. However, the FDA said additional states may be affected through further U.S. distribution.

Businesses with the affected oysters are urged to throw them away or return to distributors, the CDC says. Food contaminated with norovirus may look, smell or taste normal so it's crucial to check packaging. 

The CDC issued guidance on protection measures for norovirus such as cooking oysters and other shellfish thoroughly or until at least 145 degrees. 

Norovirus increases the risk of dehydration, according to the CDC. The agency urges people to call a health provider if young children, older people or anyone getting sick seems dehydrated.

Common norovirus symptoms:

A person usually develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to norovirus. Most people with norovirus illness get better within 1 to 3 days.

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain

CDC guidance on protecting yourself and others from norovirus:

  • Cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them (at least 145 degrees); quick steaming is not enough.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water often.
  • Carefully wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them.
  • Do not prepare food or care for others when you are sick, and for at least two days after symptoms stop.
  • Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces. Wash contaminated laundry thoroughly.

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