Oyster Norovirus Outbreak Toll Now at 38

After about 38 illnesses following consumption of raw oysters in about one month, the seafood market in Louisiana is looking at the largest amount of state oyster grounds closures in about 10 years, said NOLA.com. Experts are confused because of the diverse and disparate geographic locations of the three beds, said NOLA.com.

In the past two weeks, three harvest areas—in St. Bernard, Plaquemines and parts of Lafourche and Jefferson parishes—are now closed to oyster fishing; however, the origin of the outbreaks has not been confirmed, said NOLA.com. <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/norovirus">Norovirus is believed to be the culprit. The illnesses have been seen in Mississippi and in and around New Orleans and appear to be linked to oysters in the three harvest areas, said NOLA.com.

Norovirus can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach cramping, fever, headaches, chills, muscle ache, tiredness, and diarrhea; in general, children experience more vomiting than adults. The norovirus strikes quickly and generally lasts one-to-two days. Sometimes people also develop a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. There is no cure for the norovirus and patients sometimes need to be given fluids intravenously to combat the dehydration caused by frequent vomiting and diarrhea. Norovirus is not helped with antibiotic treatment.

Norovirus is not one, but actually a group of viruses that are found in the stool or vomit of infected people. Norovirus spreads easily and quickly with people becoming infected when eating food or drinking liquids contaminated with norovirus; touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth; or having direct contact with another person infected and showing symptoms, for example, when caring for someone with illness, or sharing foods or eating utensils with someone who is ill. Norovirus can survive for weeks on surfaces at room temperature, can be difficult to eliminate, and can only be killed with chorine bleach. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers and other preparations are not too helpful.

Eleven people reported becoming sick after eating raw oysters at a conference center in Jackson County, Mississippi. Test results by the Mississippi State Department of Health confirmed that the patients were infected with norovirus. Thirteen more people became ill after attending a wedding in New Orleans; all 13 confirmed having eaten oysters, said NOLA.com, which noted that the origin of the problem—contamination in the harvesting beds or by someone handling the oysters—is under review. Norovirus in oysters is challenging to both prevent and track, added NOLA.com.

The water in the three oyster fishing zones has been tested by the DHH for fecal coliform, which can be found in sewage and human waste; tests have come back negative, but were conducted because the virus can be spread in oyster beds if boats dump waste in harvesting grounds, said NOLA.com.

Late last year we wrote that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised consumers to avoid eating oysters harvested from San Antonio Bay following reports of norovirus in some people who had consumed oysters harvested from the Gulf of Texas. About one dozen people were sickened. Just prior, oysters harvested from Mississippi Area 2C were believed linked to about one dozen norovirus illnesses, according to the FDA. Mississippi Area 2C is in the Mississippi Sound portion of the Gulf of Mexico near Pass Christian, Mississippi.

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