The annual Wellfleet OysterFest, celebrated in Massachusetts, will not have its main attraction this year due to contamination in the zone. Stomach illness has hit many people from Wellfleet. Precisely 75 individuals are suspected of having norovirus from eating raw oysters. The state Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries shut down all Wellfleet´s oyster beds this Thursday.

Norovirus, also known as a winter vomiting bug, is a stomach bug that creates severe stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is usually the leading cause of viral gastroenteritis. The symptoms last for one or two days, but the illness can spread very quickly by person-to-person contact and fecal matter contamination.

Precisely 75 individuals are suspected of having norovirus from eating raw oysters. Photo credit:
Precisely 75 individuals are suspected of having norovirus from eating raw oysters. Photo credit:

The state Department of Public Health and the town health officials have made investigations, cross-referencing the weekend’s events and restaurants sick people visited, and they saw that oysters were a common link. Nevertheless, there is the possibility that only one person was infected with norovirus, and due to its easy spreading, the other 74 got contaminated too.


‘The show must go on’

The show must go on, as they say, and Wellfleet OysterFest will do so as well. Michele Insley, executive director of the non-profit Shellfish Promotion and Tasting, stated that it is a disappointment not to have raw oysters but the main idea is to have a fun and healthy festival, which will happen this weekend, she assured.

It is the festival’s 16th year, on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th from 10 am to 5 pm. The admission costs $10. More than 100,000 oysters will not be sold in this edition, but this should not sadden people, since there will be a lot of other types of food -such as conch fritters and pumpkin bisque-, art shows, live music, among other activities. The crowd expected is about 20,000 people.

This year´s theme is Marine Pollution, making it the central topic to be discussed and seen in the stands and activities.

Many activities will be held this weekend at the festival. From road races to educational programs, cooking demos, film screenings, and kid events, the festival will bring spectators the best fun they could have.

There will be a panel discussion about tackling marine debris, moderated by Heather Goldstone, a science editor with WCAI radio station, at the Wellfleet´s Public Library on Saturday at 1 pm. Panelists from partnering organizations such as Ocean Conservancy, 5 Gyres Institute, Center for Coastal Studies and International Fund for Animal Welfare will be present.

There will also be a screening of the film “Sonic Sea” at Wellfleet´s Harbor Actors Theater at 7 pm on Saturday. The movie shares the effects of marine noise pollution on the marine life. Other activities related to the year’s theme is the Ocean Conservancy´s stand, showing its science-based studies and solutions to the ocean contamination regarding the actual global challenges. Julia Roberson -one of the organization’s spokeswoman- said that Ocean Conservancy is happy and supporting the festival. A Wellfleet Recycling Committee -hosted by 5 Gyres Institute- will also be present, talking about the actions to take against the global crisis of plastic pollution through arts, science, education and adventure.

Sam Adams -the event sponsor- stated that the beers will be given in compostable plastic cups and that the food vendors will not use styrofoam serving containers. Also, the premiere sponsorship -Whole Foods Market- will operate two water bottle refilling stations, so people do not buy disposable plastic water bottles.

The music guests will be the Daggers and the Rip-It-Up on Saturday from 11:30 am, Steve Morgan and the Kingfish and Pulsation on Sunday at 10:15 am, and  Sarah Swain and Oh Boys on Sunday at 3:30 pm.

All this massive event would not be possible without the sponsorship of Whole Food Market and non-profit Shellfish Promotion and Tasting organization, which works to sustain Wellfleet´s shellfishing and aquaculture industries.

Source: Cape Cod