Oysters are hugely popular in France as a Christmas tradition, but now local authorities in Brittany have reluctantly issued the ban.
In a press statement the département of Ille-et-Vilaine, in the northwestern coastal region of Brittany, said it had issued a temporary ban on all commercial activity of the area’s oysters “until a satisfactory sanitary situation” had been re-established.
Controls in the areas of Baie du Mont Saint-Michel and Hirel had revealed that shells were contaminated by norovirus – also known as the winter vomiting bug – a stomach virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea.
According to the Regional Shellfish Committee (Le comité régional de conchyliculture, or CRC) in Southern Brittany, humans are the source of the oyster contamination.
“We have been struggling with gastroenteritis since Christmas, but the discharges aren’t always handled correctly,” Philippe Le Gal, President of the CRC, told Franceinfo.
“This leads to the virus being spread to the maritime environment.”
Health services registered 289 consultations per 100,000 inhabitants regarding acute diarrhea over Christmas, most in the regions of Grand-Est (northeast), Occitanie (southeast) and Nouvelle-Aquitaine (southwest).
The French stomach bug season originally hit the country in October, three months early.
Health officials say the next best way to prevent yourself from getting sick is to avoid contact with dirty hands. If you can't avoid touching others, make sure to disinfect your hands quickly.
If you do get sick, the most important thing is to remain hydrated and avoid eating foods that are high in fibre.