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Norovirus Outbreak Leads to Recall Order

Health officials have reported hundreds of norovirus cases in several states which are linked to oysters.
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Health officials ordered a recall of raw oysters harvested in Texas after more than 200 people in several states were sickened by a norovirus outbreak.

The Texas Department of State Health Services ordered the recall of all oysters harvested in the southeastern Galveston Bay known as "TX1" after reports of a few dozen cases of gastrointestinal illness among people who ate oysters from those waters.

The recall includes oysters in the shell and shucked oysters harvested in the area from Nov. 17 through Dec. 7.

Texas officials are responding to the outbreak with the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Consumers who purchased Texas oysters since Nov. 17 should check the packaging to see if they were harvested in TX 1. 

CDC Tracking More than 200 Cases

If the oysters were unpackaged, they should contact the seller to find the source. Restaurants should contact their distributor for information on the source of their oysters. Any oysters from TX 1 should be discarded.

Texas health officials closed the TX 1 area to harvesting on Dec. 8 after receiving reports from health departments in Southeast Texas and Florida that people who had consumed oysters from the area had gotten sick. 

The CDC cited 211 cases of the illness as of Dec. 15 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas

No hospitalizations have been reported at this time

Texas health authorities said state epidemiologists are working with local health departments to investigate cases of illness. 

The agency said it will test water samples collected in the recall area to determine when it may safely reopen to oyster harvesting. No other species of seafood is affected.

Norovirus is a very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea, according to the CDC. The agency said in September that the rates of the virus are nearing pre pandemic levels.  

People can get the virus from having direct contact with an infected person, consuming contaminated food or water, or touching contaminated surfaces and then putting their unwashed hands in their mouths.

The most common symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain. Other symptoms include fever, headache and body aches.

Health Officials Warn of Raw Shellfish Risks

Norovirus causes inflammation of the stomach or intestines, also known as acute gastroenteritis, the CDC said. 

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. 

Dehydration can occur, especially in young children, older adults, and people with other illnesses. 

If eaten raw, oysters and other filter-feeding shellfish can contain viruses and bacteria that can cause illness or death, the CDC said.

Anyone consuming raw shellfish, such as oysters, is at risk of contracting norovirus. 

Children younger than five years old, the elderly, and those people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe infections. Food contaminated with norovirus may look, smell, or taste normal. 

To avoid food poisoning from oysters, the CDC recommends cooking them to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Texas Gulf Coast produces about 45% of the nation's $250 million oyster industry, according to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries division, and an estimated an estimated $50 million to the state's economy.