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Sewage release prompts shellfish harvesting ban for Upper Machodoc Creek

Norovirus outbreak leads to shellfish harvesting ban on stretch of Rappahannock River
Posted at 9:07 PM, Jan 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-22 23:37:26-05

RICHMOND, Va. —Health officials announced Saturday night that a release of partially treated sewage has closed all shellfish harvesting in Upper Machodoc Creek in King George County.

As a result, shellfish, which include bivalve mollusks like oysters and clams, from impacted areas are not safe to eat because of "potential microbiological pollution hazards," officials with the Virginia Department of Health said.

The temporary emergency closure began Saturday and is slated to continue through Friday, Feb. 11, according to officials.

"The Division of Shellfish Safety will monitor the shellfish and water quality during this period to determine if the areas can be reopened sooner," officials with the health department wrote.

Maps of the affected areas are posted on the Division of Shellfish Safety’s website.

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Officials warned that eating shellfish from the closed areas could cause gastrointestinal illnesses like norovirus, hepatitis A and shigellosis.

Symptoms of norovirus, the most common cause of foodborne illness, include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain, according to the CDC. Those symptoms usually show up 12 to 48 hours after someone is exposed to the virus, officials said.

Officials noted crabs and fin fish in Upper Machodoc Creek are still safe to catch.

Shellfish farming in Virginia accounted for more than $53 million in 2018, according to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s Virginia Shellfish Aquaculture Situation and Outlook Report.

Those numbers break down to $38.8 million for clams and $14.5 million for oysters.

Additionally, Virginia ranks first in the U.S. for clam production and first on the East Coast for Eastern oyster production, according to the report.

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