The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department recommends that consumers avoid raw oyster consumption. Recent illnesses associated with raw oyster consumption included 9 ill individuals who ate at a Hamilton County restaurant, the Boathouse Rotisserie and Raw Bar, between March 5 and March 8, 2009. Following standard protocol, the Health Department conducted an investigation to determine the cause of the illness. Persons reporting illness have been contacted and interviewed. Laboratory testing of ill individuals identified Norovirus as the cause of the illness. The establishment fully cooperated with the Health Department’s procedures, including halting service of implicated oysters when notified of the illnesses. Inspection at the restaurant did not identify the facility as a source of the infection.
Bacterial and viral pathogens can be carried in oysters, including Vibrio, Hepatitis A and Norovirus. Even in healthy individuals, these pathogens cause illness. These illnesses can be severe, particularly in the elderly or in persons with weakened immune systems. In addition, most of these illnesses can then be spread to other individuals through person to person contact.
“Oysters should be cooked thoroughly,” says Margaret Zylstra, Epidemiology Manager at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department. “Any oyster not thoroughly cooked poses the risk of foodborne illness.”