Oysters are an important breeding ground for norovirus, the highly contagious bug that causes stomach flu, a recent study concluded.
We already knew that oysters can transmit norovirus to humans, particularly if eaten raw. But the new study, published last month in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, proves oysters play a big role in harboring the virus and allowing it to spread.
The study analyzed the genetic sequences of more than 1,000 norovirus samples taken from oysters. The researchers found that more than 80 percent of known human norovirus strains matched the strains in oysters. What's more, there was a "convergence" between new norovirus strains in oysters and those making the rounds in humans.
This means that oysters are likely helping to keep the stomach flu alive and well... and you, not-so-well.
Most virus-carrying oysters in the study came from coastal waters around the globe, and contamination from human sewage is most prevalent near coasts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, points out that oysters can only legally be harvested in the U.S. in waters free from human fecal contamination, which means ilocally sourced oysters should be less likely to contain norovirus.
In 2011, three quarters of British oysters were found to contain norovirus. The best advice regarding consumption? Don't eat raw oysters. You'll likely prevent any bad bugs when you make sure they're fully cooked, like this:
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