145 sickened after oyster event at landmark Ocean City restaurant

State and local health investigators are trying to determine how 145 people were sickened after attending a beer and oyster festival at Fager’s Island restaurant in Ocean City this month.

The Maryland Department of Health, which is working with the Worcester County Health Department on the case, confirmed Saturday that officials are looking into an outbreak of gastroenteritis among those who attended the Nov. 4 event.

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the lining of the intestines caused by a virus, bacteria or parasites, according to the U.S. Library of Medicine.

Despite the outbreak, the restaurant was cleared by health officials to hold a similar event on Saturday night.

The Worcester County Environmental Health Department sent staff to the restaurant Saturday morning to inspect the facility and make sure restaurant employees who had experienced symptoms of gastroenteritis in the previous 48 hours were not working.

Restaurant general manager Kevin Myers said he was working with health officials to determine the cause of the outbreak.

“I can’t speculate on the cause until they arrive at their conclusions,” Myers said in a statement. “We welcome their assistance and presence at Saturday’s event, and I assure any attendees or concerned patrons that all regulations have been and will be followed to ensure the proper food safety.”

People from Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey reported getting sick after the Nov. 4 event. No one suffered symptoms severe enough to be hospitalized, state health department officials said, and no deaths have been linked to the outbreak.

The cause of gastroenteritis is often a norovirus infection, according to the U.S. Library of Medicine. It spreads through contaminated food or water, and contact with an infected person. The best prevention is frequent hand-washing.

People with the condition often have diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, headache, fever and chills. Most people recover without treatment.

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