The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising consumers that shellfish beds in Wellfleet, Massachusetts have been closed due to suspected norovirus illnesses believed to be linked to the consumption of shellfish from that area.
This closure is unrelated to the shellfish harvesting closure in Narragansett Bay, which was prompted by the presence of harmful algae.
Public health officials in Massachusetts received reports of approximately 75 suspect cases of norovirus over the past two days, primarily associated with eating raw shellfish at weddings and restaurants in the Outer Cape Cod area. Officials in Massachusetts are instructing businesses to recall any affected shellfish that was harvested on or after September 26, 2016.
Norovirus is easily spread through food, person-to-person contact, or through contact with contaminated surfaces such as countertops or door knobs. The viruses can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. Other symptoms may include headache, fever, chills and muscle aches. Illness from norovirus lasts for one or two days for most people. The elderly, the very young, and people with weakened immune systems are at risk for more serious illness.
People should not eat shellfish from Wellfleet, Massachusetts that was harvested or purchased on or after September 26, 2016. This includes oysters, hard-shell clams ("quahogs"), soft-shell clams ("steamers"), mussels and razor clams. If you are unsure where shellfish was harvested, contact the retailer or restaurant where the product was purchased.
Anyone experiencing symptoms of norovirus, or are caring for someone who is, should practice good hand washing with warm, soapy water to prevent further spread of the illness. After episodes of vomiting or diarrhea, be sure to clean contaminated surfaces immediately with a bleach-based household cleaner and wash hands thoroughly afterwards.
More information about norovirus is available online at http://www.health.ri.gov/diseases/food/?parm=73.