Oysters are also filter feeders. Janes, who lives in Louisiana, gets a firsthand look at the local oyster-fishing industry and its battles with norovirus. “My lab is trying to better understand how the oysters get contaminated,” she says. Improper sewage dumping and lack of sufficient sanitation are the likeliest culprits. Oysters also concentrate Vibrio bacteria from sea water. Some types of Vibrio bacteria are particularly harmful to people with liver damage.
“As long as they’re cooked, it’s OK,” Janes says. “If you eat them raw, you’re taking a chance.” What about the famous aphrodisiacal properties of oysters? Don’t be fooled. “That’s just a way to promote them,” she says.