TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A recent outbreak of norovirus has been tied to some raw oysters sold in Florida. The virus has been recorded in at least 13 states, with the oysters originating in Canada.
Since the start of the outbreak, Florida, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington have all reported restaurants and store locations that received the affected oysters.
Due to the virus, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has begun an investigation to determine where exactly the oysters came from, and retailers have been told not to serve or sell oysters harvested in certain locations of Baynes Sound, British Columbia, Canada.
So, what is norovirus?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus is a contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea in those who are infected. Anyone can get sick from it, according to the CDC, from a variety of sources.
The CDC reports having direct contact with someone already infected with norovirus, consuming contaminated food or water, or touching contaminated surfaces and then putting your unwashed hands in your mouth are all ways to get norovirus.
Patients infected with norovirus can also experience nausea and stomach pain. The federal agency says outbreaks are common and that the virus spreads rapidly and easily, and can happen at any time, but are most common from November to April.
The best way to protect yourself from getting norovirus, according to the CDC is to:
- Wash your hands often
- Rinse fruits and vegetables
- Cook shellfish thoroughly
- Stay home when sick and for two days after symptoms stop
- Avoid preparing food for others when sick and for two days after symptoms stop
If you do get norovirus, it’s important not to cook or prepare food for others, or provide healthcare to others while you are sick, and for at least two days after. The CDC said this includes sick workers in restaurants, schools, daycares, long-term care facilities, and other places where exposure is possible.
It’s important to not just clean surfaces but also soiled or dirty laundry worn while infected with the norovirus. When washing clothes or linens that could have been contaminated with vomit or feces, the CDC urges patients or caregivers to wear rubber or disposable gloves, wash at the hottest temperature possible in the washing machine, and dry on high to ensure safety.
For two weeks after you start feeling better, you should still be vigilant. The CDC said the virus can still be present in feces or vomit before and after you get sick, so keep washing your hands, clean surfaces and use hand sanitizer. Make sure to disinfect surfaces with a chlorine bleach solution and “routinely clean and sanitize kitchen utensils, counters, and surfaces before preparing food.”