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The Mississippi State Department of Health has joined an investigation into a multistate outbreak of a contagious virus linked to raw oysters from Texas. 

So far, at least nine cases of norovirus have been reported in the state linked to raw oysters distributed to Mississippi restaurants. The Health Department says additional cases may be identified. 

The department says restaurants and food retailers should not serve raw oysters from harvest area TX 1, Galveston Bay, Texas, harvested from Nov. 17 to Dec. 7, and consumers should not eat raw oysters from these areas. The oysters were distributed to restaurants and retailers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas in addition to Mississippi.  Packaged oysters include harvest area information on the packaging.

Consumers who have purchased oysters from these areas are advised to throw them away. 

Norovirus infection can cause inflammation of the stomach and intestines. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain. Consumers experiencing symptoms of norovirus illness should contact their healthcare provider, who should report their symptoms to their local Health Department.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus can spread quickly and a person who gets norovirus illness can shed billions of the virus’ particles that can’t be seen. It takes only a few norovirus particles to make others sick. An infected person is most contagious when exhibiting symptoms, especially vomiting, and during the first few days after recovering, according to the CDC.

Norovirus can be spread by accidentally getting tiny particles of feces or vomit from an infected person in one’a mouth, having direct contact with someone who is infected with norovirus, such as by caring for them or sharing food or eating utensils with them, the CDC says.

The CDC advises takng these precautions to avid the spread of norovirus:

  • Practice proper hand hygiene.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables and cook seafood thoroughly.
  • Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces.
  • Wash laundry thoroughly.

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Debbie is a veteran journalist, who worked over 30 years at the Clarion Ledger, first as a reporter and then as an editor overseeing breaking news, business and investigative projects. She left the CL as news director in 2018 to become managing editor of the nonprofit Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting and joined Mississippi Today on Oct. 1, 2022, to become its first justice team editor.