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Health officials trace norovirus cases linked to oysters from Sonora

REGION — The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency have linked 41 confirmed and probable cases of norovirus illness to raw oysters imported from a specific harvest location in Northwest Mexico.

Cases to date have been tied to oysters served at three locations of The Fish Shop – in Pacific Beach, Point Loma and Encinitas – and the Carlsbad Aquafarm. Other locations may emerge during this investigation.

According to the HHSA, the cases began mid-December when people dined on raw oysters from Sonora, Mexico. The oysters have only been available through restaurants and wholesale locations and the county is asking those who purchased “Rocky Point oysters” packed by GOLPAC, located in Bahia Salina, Sonora are asked not to eat or serve them until an investigation of the outbreak is complete.

The illnesses have been caused by norovirus, the leading cause of vomiting and diarrhea among people of all ages in the United States, a statement from the HHSA read.

The 41 people who got sick reported eating raw oysters a day or two in advance of symptoms. Cases range in age from 12 to 83 years old. Symptoms reported included nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. None of the illnesses required hospitalization.

“The county recommends that people ask where oysters were harvested when eating out or getting food from wholesale locations to avoid consuming Rocky Point oysters from Bahia Salina, Sonora, Mexico,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. “It’s also important for anyone who is sick to seek medical care. People who are ill, and those that live with them, should wash their hands frequently to avoid contaminating surfaces and foods that could further spread the infection.”

Several household members, including children, who did not eat the oysters have subsequently become ill likely due to spread within the home, the county statement reads.

If you eat raw or undercooked oysters, germs that might be in the oyster can make you sick.

People infected with norovirus generally develop nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever and body aches 12 to 48 hours after consuming contaminated foods. The illness typically lasts for 1-3 days. The vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration requiring medical attention, especially in young children, older adults and people with other illnesses.

HHSA is working with the California Department of Public Health, including the Shellfish Program, to continue investigating illnesses associated with oysters. To report illness to the County after dining out or purchasing from wholesale food locations call 858-505-6814, or email [email protected].

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