Vibrio risk in raw oysters extends to Canada

Five cases of locally-acquired Vibrio parahaemolyticus infection have been reported in British Columbia this year. In 2011, 42 cases of Vibrio were reported. These illnesses have been linked to raw shellfish served in restaurants, bought at retail, or self-harvested in communities throughout the province including, Gibsons, Sechelt, Powell River, Ladysmith, Qualicum, Ucluelet, Gabriola Island, Cortes Island and Parksville.

The BC Centre for Disease Control says that in addition to individual cases, BC has also experienced outbreaks associated with shellfish. In 2010, an outbreak of norovirus from raw oysters affected over 30 people and in 2011 more than 60 people became ill after consuming cooked mussels contaminated with diarrhetic shellfish poisoning.

Satefy tips to reduce the risk of all shellfish-related illnesss:

Purchase shellfish only from approved sources. All bivalve shellfish sold in British Columbia must come from a federally approved source, and outlets and restaurants selling them must be able to provide a shellfish shipper’s tag, which ensures federal inspection.

Consume only cooked shellfish. Cooking will destroy viruses and bacteria and decrease the risk of gastrointestinal illness. When cooking shellfish at home, ensure shellfish are kept in a cold environment at all times, use drinking-quality water to rinse ready-to-eat shellfish, and ensure adequate cooking time. To ensure adequate cooking, test oysters with a meat thermometer and make sure the temperature reaches 90°C (195°F) for 90 seconds. This will kill the vibrio bacteria and minimize the risk of other infections.

Do not cross-contaminate when handling raw and cooked seafood. Prevent cross-contamination by storing raw and cooked seafood separately, cleaning and sanitizing knives and cutting boards and working with clean hands.