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Green Island restaurant linked to norovirus outbreak: health official

2015/07/16 22:26:11

Taipei, July 16 (CNA) A recent diarrhea outbreak among 102 tourists on Green Island off Taitung was caused by a norovirus infection at a local seafood restaurant that had served contaminated raw oysters imported from South Korea, Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported Thursday.

Taitung health authorities have received seven suspected food poisoning cases between June 26-30 which involved 102 tourists in six tour groups who displayed symptoms of diarrhea, with 76 of whom having been hospitalized.

After an investigation, Taitung County's Public Health Bureau found that all the 120 people had eaten raw oysters at a seafood restaurant on Green Island and directed that all restaurants around the island to stop serving raw oysters.

In addition, two raw oyster samples have been found with the presence of norovirus, while two travelers who visited local hospitals tested positive for the norovirus, according to a report from the FDA on July 8.

The FDA then traced the sources of the contaminated products and found they were among a total of 16,447.5 kilograms of raw oysters imported by two aquaculture companies in New Taipei and Kaohsiung from South Korea, a FDA official said Thursday.

The two companies sold the tainted raw oysters to a Taitung company.

The FDA has sealed the tainted products and the two companies may face a fine ranging from NT$60,000 (US$1,932) to NT$200 million for violating the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation, the official said.

Norovirus is highly contagious and a common cause of viral gastroenteritis in humans, and outbreaks of norovirus infection are also frequently reported in developed countries.

The primary mode of transmission of norovirus is the fecal-oral route, either through direct contact with the infected or via contaminated food or water.

Norovirus infections are characterized by nausea, forceful vomiting, watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, and in some cases, loss of the sense of taste.

The disease is usually self-limiting, lasting between one and 10 days, with severe complications rare.

The FDA reminded people to wash their hands frequently and to make sure their food has been properly cooked.

(By Tyson Lu, Lung Pei-ning and Evelyn Kao)