Illness from tainted oysters soars with heat

BCCDC reports unprecedented number of cases in June and July, shellfish risk grows with rise in water temperatures

An unprecedented number of cases of gastrointestinal illness from eating raw oysters has prompted an alert from the B.C. Centre For Disease Control.

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.