NEW ORLEANS - Louisiana health officials say they closed an oyster harvesting area and ordered a recall of oysters taken there since April 26 after 14 people became ill with norovirus.
The closure, effective Tuesday, was expected to last at least 21 days, the amount of time it would take oysters to purge themselves of the virus, according to state health officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry.
The recall includes shucked, frozen, breaded and processed oysters and those for the half shell market taken from Area 23 in Terrebonne Parish southwest of New Orleans, according to the Department of Health and Hospitals. In addition to the New Orleans area, some of the oysters were shipped to Maryland, Texas and Georgia.
Guidry said 1,141 sacks of oysters were taken from the area since April 26. They said there was no way of knowing how many might still be on the market for recall.
Dr. Jimmy Guidry, the state health officer, said the oysters were likely contaminated by sewage dumped from a boat in the harvesting area. Finding the culprit would be difficult, he said, adding that it is unlikely that it would be an oyster harvester.
"Most of the folks that do this for a living know better," he said in an interview.
Health officials said 14 people became ill after eating oysters from that area at one New Orleans area restaurant April 28 or April 29.
Norovirus causes vomiting or diarrhea. DHH says the illnesses were not life-threatening. Nobody was hospitalized but DHH began getting calls about the illnesses over the past few days, Guidry said.
DHH refused to disclose the restaurant where the contaminated oysters were eaten.
"It would hurt them and they're not the culprit," Guidry said.
DHH spokesman Ken Pastorick stressed thorough cooking will kill the virus.
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