The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) moved quickly Friday to close a Cameron Parish molluscan shellfish harvesting area located in Basin 3, Area 30.
This is a preventive health measure in response to people becoming ill after eating oysters harvested from that area. DHH also ordered a recall of all oysters harvested from that area since Dec. 28, 2012, including shucked, frozen, breaded, post-harvest processed and oysters for the half shell market.
Nine people became sick with stomach illnesses after eating oysters harvested from Area 30. These illnesses were not life-threatening, and no one was hospitalized. DHH epidemiologists and health inspectors looked into these illnesses to see if they were related, and discovered all nine people had eaten oysters harvested from this area.
The illness these nine people experienced is possibly norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea. Norovirus usually begins 12 to 48 hours after exposure. Symptoms usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping. Sometimes people also experience a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and fatigue.
The illness is usually brief, with symptoms lasting a day or two. People can get norovirus several ways, including eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated. Cooking kills the virus, but outbreaks have occurred from eating raw or undercooked oysters that were harvested from contaminated waters. As with any illness, people who experience these symptoms should seek medical attention.
The closure order was signed today by Louisiana State Health Officer, Jimmy Guidry, M.D., DHH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein and Office of Public Health Assistant Secretary J.T. Lane. The closure takes effect at sunset Friday, January 4, 2013. Area 30 harvesting area is expected to be closed for at least 21 days.
DHH has notified local oyster harvesters that work the affected area, as well as the Louisiana Oyster Task Force.