Copano Bay Oysters Linked to Norovirus Outbreak: FDA Warns

Oysters harvested from Copano Bay in Texas appear to be linked to at least six cases of norovirus, leading to a recall and warning from federal health officials.

An Alby’s Seafood Oyster recall on January 17, along with an FDA warning not to eat Copano Bay oysters, after health officials were able to confirm the oysters harvested from Texas were the cause of norovirus reported in Louisiana.

On January 9, the Texas Department of State Health Services shut down Copano Bay to shellfish harvesting in efforts to stop the virus from spreading. Department officials determined that shellfish harvested and distributed for sale between December 26, 2013 and January 9, 2014 may be carrying the norovirus. The FDA is warning people to not eat raw or only partially cooked oysters harvested from Copano Bay, Texas during this time frame.

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The oysters harvested during the recalled time frame were known to be distributed by Alby’s Seafood of Fulton, Texas to parts of Texas and to Louisiana, where the outbreak started. The FDA believes other shellfish harvested from Copano Bay may still be in the marketplace.

Distributors and retailers are advised to check the tags and labels of all containers of shellfish in their inventories to verify if any product were harvested between December 26, and January 9. Shellfish harvested between these dates from Copano Bay should not be sold or eaten and should be discarded immediately.

Customers with questions should contact the FDA for any food safety tips or advice at 1-888-SAFEFOOD.

Norovirus infection can cause gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the stomach and intestines which may cause nausea, diarrhea, committing and stomach pain. The illness sets in almost immediately and usually lasts up to two days. Those with weakened immune system may experience more severe symptoms along with dehydration.

The norovirus is an extremely contagious infection and is most susceptible to transmission 3 days after symptoms start to clear up. The virus can spread rapidly due to people touching contaminated surfaces and putting those fingers in their mouths. The virus has been known to spread quickly in places like daycare centers, nursing homes, and schools.

It is the most common foodborne-disease in the United States, causing an estimated 19-21 million illnesses per year, contributing to 56,000 to 71,000 hospitalizations and between 500-800 deaths annually. Norovirus outbreaks occur mainly between November and April.

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