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Public Health Notice - Outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus linked to raw shellfish

October 15, 2015 - Final Update

This is the final update related to this investigation as the outbreak appears to be over.

Why you should take note

The Public Health Agency of Canada has collaborated with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Health Canada to investigate 82 Canadian cases of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario linked to raw shellfish. The majority of the illnesses were linked to eating raw oysters.  Given that there have not been any recent cases of Vibrio reported since September 3, the outbreak appears to be over and the investigation is coming to a close.

The risk to Canadians is low. Although the outbreak appears to be over, Canadians are reminded that Vibrio illnesses can be avoided if shellfish are cooked before being eaten.

Vibrio is a naturally-occurring bacterium that can be present at high levels in coastal waters during periods of increased water temperatures. Most people come in contact with Vibrio by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, especially oysters.

Investigation Summary

In Canada, a total of 82 cases have been reported in British Columbia (60), Alberta (19), Saskatchewan (1) and Ontario (2). One case has been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals became sick between May 26 and September 3, 2015 and all reported consumption of raw shellfish, primarily oysters.

Based on the investigation of the foodborne illness outbreak by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, oysters harvested from British Columbia coastal waters for raw consumption on or before August 18, 2015 were recalled from the marketplace. See the food recall warning for more information on the recalled products that were distributed nationally. Consumers should not consume the recalled products.

Who is most at risk

People most at risk for complications are pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, liver disease and low stomach acidity, young children and the elderly.

Most people recover fully within a week.

What you should do to protect your health

Foods contaminated with Vibrio may look, smell and taste normal.

The following safe food practices will reduce your risk of getting sick from Vibrio and other foodborne illnesses.

  • Do not eat recalled food products.
  • Do not eat raw shellfish.
  • Cook shellfish thoroughly before eating, especially oysters. Shellfish should be cooked to a safe internal temperature of 74ºC (165ºF).
  • Discard any shellfish that do not open when cooked.
  • Eat shellfish right away after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.
  • Always keep raw and cooked shellfish separate.
  • Avoid eating oysters, or other seafood, when taking antacids as reduced stomach acid may favour the survival and growth of Vibrio species.
  • Always wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap after using the bathroom.
  • Avoid exposing open wounds or broken skin to warm salt or brackish water, or to raw shellfish. Wear protective clothing (like gloves) when handling raw shellfish.
  • Wash your hands well with soap before handling any food. Be sure to wash your hands, cutting boards, counters, knives and other utensils after preparing raw foods.

Symptoms

People infected with Vibrio can experience a wide range of symptoms. Some do not get sick at all, while others feel as though they have a bad case of stomach flu. Few people get seriously ill.

Most people develop one or more of the following symptoms 12 to 24 hours after being infected with the bacteria:

  • watery or bloody diarrhea
  • stomach cramps
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • headache
  • chills
  • abnormally low blood pressure
  • bacteria present in the blood

The illness can last up to three days, and severe illness is rare. Patients should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluids lost through diarrhea.

What the Government of Canada is doing

The Public Health Agency of Canada is coordinating the response to this outbreak and is in regular contact with its federal and provincial partners to monitor and take collaborative steps to address the outbreak. Health Canada provides food-related health risk assessments to determine if the presence of a certain substance or microorganism poses a health risk to consumers. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) conducts food safety investigations into the possible food source of an outbreak. CFIA also monitors for biotoxins in shellfish in harvesting areas and is responsible for registering and inspecting fish and shellfish processing plants. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for opening and closing shellfish harvest areas, and enforcing closures under the authority of the Fisheries Act and the Management of Contaminated Fishery Regulations.  The Government of Canada will continue to update Canadians as new information related to this investigation becomes available.

Additional information

Media Contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
(613) 957-2983

September 10, 2015 - Update

This notice has been updated to include 5 additional cases of Vibrio parahaemolyticus that have been reported in British Columbia (4), and Saskatchewan (1).

Why you should take note

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Health Canada to investigate 81 Canadian cases of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections in British Columbia, Alberta,  Saskatchewan and Ontario linked to raw shellfish. The majority of the illnesses have been linked to eating raw oysters.

The risk to Canadians is low, and illnesses can be avoided if shellfish are cooked before being eaten. People with weakened immune systems, young children, pregnant women and older adults are at increased risk for developing complications if they get sick.

Vibrio is a naturally-occurring bacterium that can be present at high levels in coastal waters during periods of increased water temperatures. Most people come in contact with Vibrio by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, especially oysters.

Investigation Summary

In Canada, a total of 81 cases have been reported in British Columbia (60), Alberta (19), Saskatchewan (1) and Ontario (1). One case has been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals became sick between May 26 and August 26, 2015 and all reported consumption of raw shellfish, primarily oysters.

Based on the investigation of the foodborne illness outbreak by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, oysters harvested from British Columbia coastal waters for raw consumption on or before August 18, 2015 have been recalled from the marketplace. See the food recall warning for more information on the recalled products that were distributed nationally. Consumers should not consume the recalled products.

Who is most at risk

People most at risk for complications are pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, liver disease and low stomach acidity, young children and the elderly.

Most people recover fully within a week.

What you should do to protect your health

Foods contaminated with Vibrio may look, smell and taste normal.

The following safe food practices will reduce your risk of getting sick from Vibrio and other foodborne illnesses.

  • Do not eat recalled food products.
  • Do not eat raw shellfish.
  • Cook shellfish thoroughly before eating, especially oysters. Shellfish should be cooked to a safe internal temperature of 74ºC (165ºF).
  • Discard any shellfish that do not open when cooked.
  • Eat shellfish right away after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.
  • Always keep raw and cooked shellfish separate.
  • Avoid eating oysters, or other seafood, when taking antacids as reduced stomach acid may favour the survival and growth of Vibrio species.
  • Always wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap after using the bathroom.
  • Avoid exposing open wounds or broken skin to warm salt or brackish water, or to raw shellfish. Wear protective clothing (like gloves) when handling raw shellfish.
  • Wash your hands well with soap before handling any food. Be sure to wash your hands, cutting boards, counters, knives and other utensils after preparing raw foods.

Symptoms

People infected with Vibrio can experience a wide range of symptoms. Some do not get sick at all, while others feel as though they have a bad case of stomach flu. Few people get seriously ill.

Most people develop one or more of the following symptoms 12 to 24 hours after being infected with the bacteria:

  • watery or bloody diarrhea
  • stomach cramps
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • headache
  • chills
  • abnormally low blood pressure
  • bacteria present in the blood

The illness can last up to three days, and severe illness is rare. Patients should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluids lost through diarrhea.

What the Government of Canada is doing

The Public Health Agency of Canada is coordinating the response to this outbreak and is in regular contact with its federal and provincial partners to monitor and take collaborative steps to address the outbreak. Health Canada provides food-related health risk assessments to determine if the presence of a certain substance or microorganism poses a health risk to consumers. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) conducts food safety investigations into the possible food source of an outbreak. CFIA also monitors for biotoxins in shellfish in harvesting areas and is responsible for registering and inspecting fish and shellfish processing plants. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for opening and closing shellfish harvest areas, and enforcing closures under the authority of the Fisheries Act and the Management of Contaminated Fishery Regulations.  The Government of Canada will continue to update Canadians as new information related to this investigation becomes available.

Additional information

Media Contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
(613) 957-2983

August 28, 2015 - Update

This notice has been updated to include 4 additional cases of Vibrio parahaemolyticus that have been reported in British Columbia (3), and Ontario (1).

Why you should take note

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Health Canada to investigate 76 Canadian cases of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario linked to raw shellfish. The majority of the illnesses have been linked to eating raw oysters.

The risk to Canadians is low, and illnesses can be avoided if shellfish are cooked before being eaten. People with weakened immune systems, young children, pregnant women and older adults are at increased risk for developing complications if they get sick.

Vibrio is a naturally-occurring bacterium that can be present at high levels in coastal waters during periods of increased water temperatures. Most people come in contact with Vibrio by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, especially oysters.

Investigation Summary

In Canada, a total of 76 cases have been reported in British Columbia (56), Alberta (19), and Ontario (1). One case has been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals became sick between June 1 and August 10, 2015 and all reported consumption of raw shellfish, primarily oysters.

Based on the investigation of the foodborne illness outbreak by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, oysters harvested from British Columbia coastal waters for raw consumption have been recalled from the marketplace. See the food recall warning for more information on the recalled products that have been distributed nationally. Consumers should not consume the recalled products.

Who is most at risk

People most at risk for complications are pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, liver disease and low stomach acidity, young children and the elderly.

Most people recover fully within a week.

What you should do to protect your health

Foods contaminated with Vibrio may look, smell and taste normal.

The following safe food practices will reduce your risk of getting sick from Vibrio and other foodborne illnesses.

  • Do not eat recalled food products.
  • Do not eat raw shellfish.
  • Cook shellfish thoroughly before eating, especially oysters. Shellfish should be cooked to a safe internal temperature of 74ºC (165ºF).
  • Discard any shellfish that do not open when cooked.
  • Eat shellfish right away after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.
  • Always keep raw and cooked shellfish separate.
  • Avoid eating oysters, or other seafood, when taking antacids as reduced stomach acid may favour the survival and growth of Vibrio species.
  • Always wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap after using the bathroom.
  • Avoid exposing open wounds or broken skin to warm salt or brackish water, or to raw shellfish. Wear protective clothing (like gloves) when handling raw shellfish.
  • Wash your hands well with soap before handling any food. Be sure to wash your hands, cutting boards, counters, knives and other utensils after preparing raw foods.

Symptoms

People infected with Vibrio can experience a wide range of symptoms. Some do not get sick at all, while others feel as though they have a bad case of stomach flu. Few people get seriously ill.

Most people develop one or more of the following symptoms 12 to 24 hours after being infected with the bacteria:

  • watery or bloody diarrhea
  • stomach cramps
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • headache
  • chills
  • abnormally low blood pressure
  • bacteria present in the blood

The illness can last up to three days, and severe illness is rare. Patients should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluids lost through diarrhea.

What the Government of Canada is doing

The Public Health Agency of Canada is coordinating the response to this outbreak and is in regular contact with its federal and provincial partners to monitor and take collaborative steps to address the outbreak. Health Canada provides food-related health risk assessments to determine if the presence of a certain substance or microorganism poses a health risk to consumers. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) conducts food safety investigations into the possible food source of an outbreak. CFIA also monitors for biotoxins in shellfish in harvesting areas and is responsible for registering and inspecting fish and shellfish processing plants. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for opening and closing shellfish harvest areas, and enforcing closures under the authority of the Fisheries Act and the Management of Contaminated Fishery Regulations.  The Government of Canada will continue to update Canadians as new information related to this investigation becomes available.

Additional information

Media Contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
(613) 957-2983

August 19, 2015 - Update

This notice has been updated to include information on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's food recall warning that is related to this investigation, and to reflect 5 additional cases of Vibrio parahaemolyticus that have been reported in British Columbia.

Why you should take note

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Health Canada to investigate 72 Canadian cases of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections in British Columbia and Alberta linked to raw shellfish. The majority of the illnesses have been linked to eating raw oysters.

The risk to Canadians is low, and illnesses can be avoided if shellfish are cooked before being eaten. People with weakened immune systems, young children, pregnant women and older adults are at increased risk for developing complications if they get sick.

Vibrio is a naturally-occurring bacterium that can be present at high levels in coastal waters during periods of increased water temperatures. Most people come in contact with Vibrio by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, especially oysters.

Investigation Summary

In Canada, a total of 72 cases have been reported in British Columbia (53) and Alberta (19). One case has been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals became sick between June 1 and August 7, 2015 and all reported consumption of raw shellfish, primarily oysters. The investigation is ongoing to determine the source and distribution of these products.

Based on the investigation of the foodborne illness outbreak by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, oysters harvested from British Columbia coastal waters for raw consumption have been recalled from the marketplace. See the food recall warningExternal Link for more information on the recalled products that have been distributed nationally. Consumers should not consume the recalled products.

Who is most at risk

People most at risk for complications are pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, liver disease and low stomach acidity, young children and the elderly.

Most people recover fully within a week.

What you should do to protect your health

Foods contaminated with Vibrio may look, smell and taste normal.

The following safe food practices will reduce your risk of getting sick from Vibrio and other foodborne illnesses.

  • Do not eat recalled food productsExternal Link.
  • Do not eat raw shellfish.
  • Cook shellfish thoroughly before eating, especially oysters. Shellfish should be cooked to a safe internal temperatureExternal Link of 74°C (165°F).
  • Discard any shellfish that do not open when cooked.
  • Eat shellfish right away after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.
  • Always keep raw and cooked shellfish separate.
  • Avoid eating oysters, or other seafood, when taking antacids as reduced stomach acid may favour the survival and growth of Vibrio species.
  • Always wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap after using the bathroom.
  • Avoid exposing open wounds or broken skin to warm salt or brackish water, or to raw shellfish. Wear protective clothing (like gloves) when handling raw shellfish.
  • Wash your hands well with soap before handling any food. Be sure to wash your hands, cutting boards, counters, knives and other utensils after preparing raw foods.

Symptoms

People infected with Vibrio can experience a wide range of symptoms. Some do not get sick at all, while others feel as though they have a bad case of stomach flu. Few people get seriously ill.

Most people develop one or more of the following symptoms 12 to 24 hours after being infected with the bacteria:

  • watery or bloody diarrhea
  • stomach cramps
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • headache
  • chills
  • abnormally low blood pressure
  • bacteria present in the blood

The illness can last up to three days, and severe illness is rare. Patients should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluids lost through diarrhea.

What the Government of Canada is doing

The Public Health Agency of Canada is coordinating the response to this outbreak and is in regular contact with its federal and provincial partners to monitor and take collaborative steps to address the outbreak. Health Canada provides food-related health risk assessments to determine if the presence of a certain substance or microorganism poses a health risk to consumers. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) conducts food safety investigations into the possible food source of an outbreak. CFIA also monitors for biotoxins in shellfish in harvesting areas and is responsible for registering and inspecting fish and shellfish processing plants. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for opening and closing shellfish harvest areas, and enforcing closures under the authority of the Fisheries Act and the Management of Contaminated Fishery Regulations. The Government of Canada will continue to update Canadians as new information related to this investigation becomes available.

Additional information

Media Contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
613-957-2983

August 13, 2015 - Original Notice

Why you should take note

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Health Canada to investigate 67 Canadian cases of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections in British Columbia and Alberta linked to raw shellfish. The majority of the illnesses have been linked to the eating of raw oysters.

The risk to Canadians is low, and illnesses can be avoided if shellfish are cooked before being eaten. People with weakened immune systems, young children, pregnant women and older adults are at increased risk for developing complications if they get sick.

Vibrio is a naturally-occurring bacterium that can be present at high levels in coastal waters during periods of increased water temperatures. Most people come in contact with Vibrio by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, especially oysters.

Investigation Summary

In Canada, a total of 67 cases have been reported in British Columbia (48) and Alberta (19). One case has been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals became sick between June 1 and August 7, 2015 and all reported consumption of raw shellfish, primarily oysters. The investigation is ongoing to determine the source and distribution of these products.

Who is most at risk

People most at risk for complications are pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, liver disease and low stomach acidity, young children and the elderly.

Most people recover fully within a week.

What you should do to protect your health

Foods contaminated with Vibrio may look, smell and taste normal.

The following safe food practices will reduce your risk of getting sick from Vibrio and other foodborne illnesses.

  • Do not eat raw shellfish.
  • Cook shellfish thoroughly before eating, especially oysters. Shellfish should be cooked to a safe internal temperatureExternal Link of 74°C (165°F).
  • Discard any shellfish that do not open when cooked.
  • Eat shellfish right away after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.
  • Always keep raw and cooked shellfish separate.
  • Avoid eating oysters, or other seafood, when taking antacids as reduced stomach acid may favour the survival and growth of Vibrio species.
  • Always wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap after using the bathroom.
  • Avoid exposing open wounds or broken skin to warm salt or brackish water, or to raw shellfish. Wear protective clothing (like gloves) when handling raw shellfish.
  • Wash your hands well with soap before handling any food. Be sure to wash your hands, cutting boards, counters, knives and other utensils after preparing raw foods.

Symptoms

People infected with Vibrio can experience a wide range of symptoms. Some do not get sick at all, while others feel as though they have a bad case of stomach flu. Few people get seriously ill.

Most people develop one or more of the following symptoms 12 to 24 hours after being infected with the bacteria:

  • watery or bloody diarrhea
  • stomach cramps
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • headache
  • chills
  • abnormally low blood pressure
  • bacteria present in the blood

The illness can last up to three days, and severe illness is rare. Patients should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluids lost through diarrhea.

What the Government of Canada is doing

The Public Health Agency of Canada is coordinating the response to this outbreak and is in regular contact with its federal and provincial partners to monitor and take collaborative steps to address the outbreak. Health Canada provides food-related health risk assessments to determine if the presence of a certain substance or microorganism poses a health risk to consumers. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) conducts food safety investigations into the possible food source of an outbreak. CFIA also monitors for biotoxins in shellfish in harvesting areas and is responsible for registering and inspecting fish and shellfish processing plants. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for opening and closing shellfish harvest areas, and enforcing closures under the authority of the Fisheries Act and the Management of Contaminated Fishery Regulations. The Government of Canada will continue to update Canadians as new information related to this investigation becomes available.

Additional information

Media Contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
613-957-2983