A surge in shellfish-related illness because of the hot summer weather has prompted the B.C. Centre for Disease Control to issue a warning to oyster lovers.
The centre says 35 cases of a bacterial infection called Vibrio parahaemolyticus have been reported in June and July – an unprecedented number.
Most people got sick from eating raw B.C. oysters served in restaurants, although some cases involved oysters that were self-harvested or bought at retail outlets.
The bacteria occurs naturally in shellfish like oysters, clams, mussels, scallops and cockles and their concentrations rise in the summer months when water temperatures get warmer.
“The risk is especially high this summer, as we can see from the number of Vibrio infections reported during the last two months,” said BCCDC epidemiologist Marsha Taylor.
People can get sick when contaminated shellfish are eaten raw or undercooked.
Diarrhea is the most common symptom from infection, but nausea, vomiting, fever, headache and bloody stools can also result. Symptoms last three days to a week and don’t usually require treatment.
The BCCDC advises consumers to eat only cooked shellfish to destroy the bacteria and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal illness.
Before you harvest:
For more information on areas closed to shellfish check the Fisheries and Oceans website: http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/contamination/biotox/index-eng.html .
Always check for both bivalve shellfish biotoxins (Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, Domoic Acid Poisoning, Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning) and sanitary contamination closures if you plan on harvesting and consuming any shellfish.
In the Sidney area, Subarea 19-5 closed to all bivalve shellfish except manila clams, littleneck clams, oysters, mussels, geoduck and horse clams;
Subareas 19-6 to 19-12 closed to all bivalve shellfish except manila clams, littleneck clams, oysters and mussels;
Balance of Area 19 closed to all bivalve shellfish.