After dozens of reports of illnesses possibly linked to raw oysters, public health officials across Southern California are warning consumers to ask about the source of the shellfish at their favorite seafood spot.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported more than 150 suspected local cases of gastrointestinal illness linked to eating raw oysters, up from 27 cases reported last week.
The Orange County Health Department on Tuesday became the latest in the region to warn residents against eating raw oysters after San Diego and Los Angeles counties reported norovirus illnesses possibly linked to imported shellfish found in Sonora, Mexico. were harvested and packaged.
Los Angeles County health officials are expanding the advisory to include raw oysters from Laguna de Guerrero Negro and Laguna Manuela, cities in Baja California, Mexico.
The warnings began last month when San Diego County reported 41 confirmed and probable cases of norovirus illness possibly linked to raw oysters at local restaurants. These restaurants have not been identified by health authorities.
Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advised restaurants and retailers not to serve or sell oysters distributed by Sociedad Acuicola GolPac that were harvested in December. Dec. 18 or Dec. 27 due to possible norovirus contamination.
According to the FDA, oysters contaminated with norovirus can cause illness when eaten raw and potentially serious illness in people with weakened immune systems.
Food shows no external signs if it is contaminated with norovirus. However, once a contaminated food is consumed, symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and fever may occur. Symptoms usually appear within 12 to 48 hours of exposure to the virus. Most people with norovirus get better within one to three days.
Severe cases can cause dehydration and are more common in young children, older adults and people with other illnesses.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, in collaboration with the California Department of Public Health, is still investigating the cause of the recent cluster of gastrointestinal illnesses. The Times’ request for further information about the facilities related to the illness reports was not received at the time of publication.
“Until the source is confirmed, consumers should exercise caution before consuming raw oysters due to the risk of food-borne illness,” Dr. Los Angeles County Health Officer Muntu Davis said in a press release. “If you are sick, prevent the spread of illness by washing your hands frequently and cleaning frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches and kitchen countertops.”
Anyone who becomes ill after consuming food or drink should first seek medical attention and then report the incident to the county health department, public health officials said.
Los Angeles County residents who become ill after consuming food or drink are asked to file an online report. Orange County residents should report such illnesses by emailing [email protected] or calling (714) 433-6418. San Diego County residents are asked to call (858) 505-6814 or email [email protected].