What the shuck? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just issued a warning about raw oysters potentially being contaminated with sapoviruses. It’s a number two warning in two different ways. First, the warning encompasses oysters that were harvested on February 6, 2022, from the Designated Area Number II in the Republic of Korea. And, secondly, ingesting sapovirus can make you go number two in a bad way, as in lots and lots of diarrhea.
This contamination has prompted Dai One Food Company, Ltd., to recall all potentially affected frozen half shell oysters. The company had exported and shipped such oysters to 13 different states in the U.S.: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, or Virginia. So if you’ve been feeling pretty shellfish and purchased some oysters, you may want to double-check where the oysters came from before putting them in your mouth or any other part of your body, for that matter. Consuming a contaminated oyster may make you soon go oy vey.
That’s because you don’t want to put any sapovirus into your mouth. The virus belongs to the Caliciviridae family, which is a family of non-enveloped, single-stranded RNA viruses. Sapoviruses are rather similar to another member of this family that you may have heard of: noroviruses. And being similar to noroviruses is typically not a good thing. If your date happens to mention, “you really remind me of norovirus,” don’t expect a second date. Sapovirus are very infectious, not in a personality sense but in a it-only-takes-a-small-amount-of-the-virus-to-get-you-sick sense. Noroviruses and sapoviruses combined are the most common causes of acute gastroenteritis around the world.
Having acute gastroenteritis is not a cute thing. Symptoms tend to begin around 12 to 48 hours after the sapovirus has gone down your hatch. You may soon develop diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain. Other common symptoms include fever, headaches, and body aches. Such symptoms frequently last one to four days. However, younger children, older adults, and those with weaker immune systems may have an even tougher go at it.
There’s no real treatment for a sapovirus infection. Taking antibiotics is useless and can only hurt you by selecting for more antibiotic-resistant bacteria, sort of like wearing a velour tracksuits to a job interview in a rainstorm. All you really have is supportive care, trying to stay well-hydrated while stuff comes out of you via both ends.
You can catch the sapovirus via consuming contaminated food. Sapoviruses also often spread via the fecal-oral route, which is a nicer way of saying poop-to-mouth. While you may say, “but I don’t eat poop,” if you don’t wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, poop there is. When you are infected with the virus, your stool and vomit can carry lots of the virus. Touching such infectious substances and then touching other things can in turn spread around the contamination quite readily.
Southern Nevada Health District officials realized that they had a shell of a problem when they noticed a cluster shuck of gastrointestinal illness cases in Las Vegas. Actually there were two clusters, one on October 28 and the other on November 5. In other words, in a city known for its craps, there were a bunch of cases of, well, you get the picture. All of the folks who got sick had consumed raw oysters at a restaurant in Las Vegas previously. All told, there’s been one confirmed and nine potential sapovirus illnesses in Las Vegas.
So if you are going to eat some oysters, first check to make sure that they didn’t come from the Designated Area Number II on February 6, 2022. Otherwise, you might soon have a number two problem. Should your oysters fall under the ones being recalled, discard them safely or return them for a refund. Discarding them safely doesn’t mean feeding them to your roommate. It means wrapping them so that they can’t contaminate other objects. Oh, and it you think dousing the oysters in hot sauce or drinking alcohol at the same time is going to keep your oysters safe, it’s snot. Neither will kill enough of the virus or make the virus too drunk to infect you.
The world may be your oyster. But you should make sure that your world doesn’t have sapovirus in it. If you take an “aw shucks” attitude to someone serving you contaminated oysters, you are going to regret it in the end.
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