Here's more ammunition for people who are grossed out by raw oysters: The salty numbers served on the half-shell can be the cause of potentially fatal stomach viruses.
The New York Times reports that researchers in China have figured out that oysters easily carry and transmit norovirus, a nasty stomach virus that can put you out of commission for several days. The gastro sickness could even kill you if you are an older adult or have a weak immune system. While norovirus is well known for emerging on cruise ships or during the winter, it can pack a wallop at any time.
The study, published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, wanted to figure out exactly why oysters are such good conduits for the disease. Scientists then analyzed the genes of 1,077 norovirus samples found in oysters from 1983 to present. The results are staggering, revealing that 80 percent of the noroviruses affecting humans were also found in oysters.
The oysters most affected were farmed off the coast, and were contaminated with human feces from sewage. So basically, oysters get infected with human norovirus from sewage, and then you eat them raw, catching the virus yourself. (That gave you a great appetite, right?)
If you're looking to protect yourself, the news isn't good. The FDA has posted a list of health myths associated with eating raw oysters. So no, hot sauce, seasoned butter, and booze won't protect you, and neither will avoiding oysters from polluted waters. And the old adage of avoiding oysters in months without the letter "R"? An old wives' tale. Instead, the FDA urges consumers to order fully cooked oysters at restaurants. And, if you're making them at home, boil the batch for 3 to 5 minutes or steam for 4 to 9 minutes.
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