Contaminated shellfish in Mason County leads to multi-state recall

OLYMPIA -- Health officials closed shellfish harvesting and ordered a recall Thursday for a portion of Mason County's Hammersley Inlet.

According to the Department of Health, at least a dozen people who ate raw oysters in November became ill with symptoms often linked to norovirus, a stomach virus that spreads through contaminated food or surfaces and person to person contact. Lab tests confirmed norovirus in two cases.

All shellfish from the noted area are being recalled for the dates of November 10 to December 5. Shellfish included in the recall were sent to several states, including Oregon, Nevada, Florida, Minnesota, Illinois, California, New York, Maine, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia.

Officials said they used the shellfish tracking system and visited several sites to take samples. At least one of them later tested positive for norovirus.

Inspectors found  no sources of contamination at companies in Hammersely Inslet that harvest and ship shellfish.

However, they did find a leaking septic system which could be the source of the problem. The property owner is working with the Mason County Health Department to permanently fix the issue. A temporary fix is in place.

“This issue underscores the importance of protecting our water and shellfish with good sewage management, especially on properties near shellfish growing areas and their tributaries,” said Jerrod Davis, director for the Office of Shellfish and Water Protection. “Even one failing system can have serious consequences for the safety of our shellfish.”