According to the San Francisco Chronical, Hog Island Oyster Co., that supplies upscale restaurants around the Bay Area will soon resume harvesting oysters in Tomales Bay weeks after dozens of people who ate them raw — many of them at New Year’s Eve parties — reported falling ill.

Hog Island Oyster Co., whose oysters and other shellfish are served at Zuni Cafe, State Bird Provisions and several other celebrated San Francisco establishments, issued a voluntary recall of its oysters this month, when reports started coming in that people had experienced symptoms of food poisoning.

As of Thursday, 43 people had reported becoming sick after eating the oysters, according to the California Department of Public Health. In four cases, the people tested positive for norovirus, a relatively common gastrointestinal illness that is occasionally found in raw oysters.

Sawyer said the company’s oyster bars in Napa, San Francisco and the Marin County community of Marshall remain open, serving shellfish from outside the region. None of the possibly contaminated oysters is still on the market, at Hog Island’s establishments or any other restaurants.

The first reports of illness came to the company around the end of December, Sawyer said. Other customers reported their illness to local public health authorities. After multiple reports made it increasingly likely that the Hog Island oysters were contaminated, the company decided to recall the oysters on Jan. 2.

Reports of illness also came to an online food surveillance site called Iwaspoisoned.com. Several people said they had gotten sick after eating oysters at the Hog Island farm store in Marshall. Two reports came from the Hog Island oyster bar at the San Francisco Ferry Building. Five people said they got sick after eating oysters at a New Year’s Eve party at the Battery.

In its recall notice, Hog Island asked restaurants and other establishments to destroy or return oysters the company had supplied. Forty-one businesses were affected by the recall, most of them in San Francisco and the North Bay, according to the state Public Health Department.

Because the reports came only from California, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not involved in the investigation. The FDA steps in only when food safety concerns affect more than one state.

State public health officials said no one has been hospitalized because of illness from the Hog Island oysters. Norovirus can be serious for people who are immune-compromised, or are very young or very old, but it is usually not life-threatening for healthy adults. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and general malaise.

Norovirus:  Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Norovirus outbreaks. The Norovirus lawyersof Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Norovirus and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $650 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Norovirus lawyers have litigated Norovirus cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a number of food products and restaurants.

If you or a family member became ill with Norovirus after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Norovirus attorneys for a free case evaluation.

Jan. 10, 2018, 2:58 p.m.

The Health Department has more reports of ill customers from the suspected norovirus outbreaks at two El Toro restaurants. We have received reports of 232 ill customers at the Tacoma location and four at the one in University Place. We continue to receive more reports and interview more customers.

If you ate at El Toro Restaurant and became ill, contact the Health Department at food@tpchd.org, report online at www.tpchd.org/reportfoodborneillness, or call (253) 798-4712.

Jan. 10, 2018, 12:21 p.m.

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is working with El Toro Restaurant on a second suspected norovirus outbreak. Today, the Health Department closed the restaurant’s University Place location, 3820 Bridgeport Way W., for at least 24 hours or until thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.

We received two reports on Jan. 8 from customers in separate households who say they got ill after dining at the University Place location. Each report has multiple cases. We are still confirming the total and gathering information about new cases.

The customers got sick after they ate at El Toro’s University Place restaurant on Jan. 6. They experienced symptoms, which include vomiting and diarrhea, 24-36 hours after eating. Their symptoms lasted one to two days. We suspect norovirus to be the pathogen based on the symptoms.

It’s unclear if this outbreak is connected to our ongoing norovirus investigation at El Toro’s Tacoma restaurant in the Westgate neighborhood, 5716 N. 26th St.

“Someone exposed to norovirus can spread it 24 hours before showing symptoms,” said Katie Lott, food safety program manager. “That’s why preventing bare hand contact with food is so important,” Lott said.

Ill employees can return to work at a food establishment 48 hours after they become well.

“Food establishments benefit when sick food workers stay home: They don’t lose business and don’t jeopardize the health of their customers,” said Lott. “With Washington’s new paid sick leave law, food workers don’t have to be penalized financially for taking care of their health.” Learn more about paid sick leave on the Labor and Industries website.

In a recent editorial, the News Tribune supported the new sick leave law. The newspaper quoted research that said the law may benefit public health, in part, because of a “connection between paid sick leave and overall better population health, including fewer infectious outbreaks.”

Norovirus:

  • Is highly contagious.
  • Causes explosive diarrhea and violent vomiting, often at the same time.
  • Is the same virus often related to cruise ship outbreaks.

Cleaning for norovirus

Clean vomit or diarrhea accidents immediately.

Step 1. Remove vomit or poop.

  • Pick up the chunks with paper towels or other disposable material.
  • Soak up liquids with absorbent materials. Use kitty litter or dry oatmeal for carpeted areas.
  • Double bag and discard.
  • Do not use a vacuum cleaner.

Step 2. Sanitize.

  • Disinfect hard surfaces using 1 2/3 cups of household bleach per gallon of water. Allow for 1 minute of contact time.
  • Sanitize all handles and knobs in your house with the bleach solution.
  • Linens (including clothing, towels, napkins): Wash separately in hot water and dry on high.
  • Steam clean carpets using the highest setting for heat.
  • Avoid cross-contamination (use separate sanitation cloths for bathroom and other surfaces).
  • Clean and disinfect all containers used (e.g., buckets).

Handwashing

Wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Especially after cleaning, restroom use and before eating.

If you ate at El Toro Restaurant and became ill, contact the Health Department at food@tpchd.org, report online at www.tpchd.org/reportfoodborneillness, or call (253) 798-4712.

Learn more about norovirus at www.tpchd.org/norovirus. Sign up for restaurant closures at www.tpchd.org/notify.

A Norovirus outbreak that was traced back to Mama C’s Donuts sickened 266 people. That number continues to climb, according to the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department.

The department also believes the virus was foodborne instead of an environmental issue.

“I would suspect this is a foodborne illness. Again, Norovirus is a flu-like stomach bug, if you will. And that’s what we see, that’s what it’s pointing to again. Where did it actually come from? Was it food contact surface or was it an affected food service worker?” said health commissioner Eric Zgodinski. 

The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department said the outbreak is tied to Mama C’s Donuts located on Conant Street in Maumee. The restaurant remains closed during the investigation.

All those affected by the virus had eaten at the restaurant from August 4 to August 7.

The restaurant voluntarily closed for cleaning on August 8. 

Symptoms of Norovirus include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headaches, body aches and a mild fever. 

The health department said people typically become sick 24 to 48 hours after exposure to the virus, with symptoms lasting one to two days.

However, people who had the virus can spread it up to two weeks after the symptoms go away. 

Norovirus is spread through contact with infected individuals or through contaminated food prepared by a person who is currently or was recently ill.

The health department said Norovirus is common this time of year, and those affected should refrain from handling and working with food for at least three days after their symptoms go away.