The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has confirmed the first case of illness this summer linked to raw oyster consumption.
The infection came from vibrio parahaemolyticus, a bacteria that naturally occurs in shellfish.
Vibrio grows in seawater and accumulates in shellfish like oysters and clams. It is especially prevalent during the summer when seawater temperatures rise. When consumed in raw or undercooked shellfish, it can cause illness including fever, vomiting and diarrhea.
The largest outbreak in B.C. history occurred last year when 60 people became ill from eating raw or undercooked oysters, and another 13 from exposure to seawater with elevated bacteria levels.
The majority of people who became ill from oysters consumed them in restaurants, although several cases were associated with raw oysters bought at retail outlets or self-harvested.
This year’s illness was reported June 30, a full two weeks later than last year’s cases began to emerge.
And although the person consumed the raw oysters in the Vancouver area, experts from BCCDC warn eating raw shellfish from any source can pose a risk of making you ill.
“Eating raw shellfish increases your risk of Vibrio and other infections,” said Dr. Eleni Galanis, epidemiologist at the BCCDC.
“It’s best to eat them cooked, but if you choose to eat raw shellfish like oysters, then understand the risks and take steps to reduce your likelihood of illness.”
Anyone becoming ill with diarrhea and vomiting after eating shellfish should call BC HealthLink at 811. If symptoms are severe or persist, they should see their physician.
Learn more about the safe consumption of fish and shellfish here.