Health officials in Southern California are warning people to avoid eating raw oysters imported from Mexico after more than 200 people recently fell ill with suspected cases of norovirus.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported more than 150 suspected cases of stomach illness linked to raw oysters, while in San Diego County, health officials said Thursday they had 69 confirmed and probable cases. Other cases were reported in Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an initial warning on January 11 about oysters coming from an area in the Mexican state of Sonora, which borders the Gulf of California. That announcement was based, at least in part, on the findings of an investigation by San Diego County health officials.
The FDA on Wednesday issued another warning against eating oysters from Laguna Guerrero Negro and Laguna Manuela, both on the Pacific coast of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. On the same day, the agency also updated the first warning about Sonora to include a second place where oysters are harvested: Estero Morúa.
The California Department of Public Health is warning consumers that raw oysters harvested there may be contaminated with norovirus, which can cause diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain. Other symptoms include fever, headaches, and body aches, according to the FDA.
Health authorities are recommending restaurants discard any oysters imported from Mexico until further notice “due to the increasing number of oyster harvesting sites linked to the disease and the possibility that the other sites are also involved,” he said.
Norovirus cases have been reported in restaurant diners and in people who buy oysters in stores and eat them at home.
People are encouraged to ask where oysters come from before eating them and to wash hands and faces that may have come into contact with contaminated oysters.
All of the oysters involved were harvested in December, and since then, none from the aforementioned areas have been distributed to food establishments in San Diego, according to the county’s statement.