Health officials in Vancouver, British Columbia, are requiring area restaurants to cook oysters harvested in that province before serving them. Only oysters harvested outside of British Columbia may be served raw at this time, according to a statement issued Aug. 12 by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH). Public health ordered this step in response to an ongoing outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infection related to consumption of raw oysters harvested in BC. The statement noted that this action is in addition to the ongoing public health warning in VCH restaurants about the increased risk of gastrointestinal illness associated with the consumption of all raw oysters. Thirty-one Vibrio cases associated with consumption of raw oysters have so far been reported in VCH, although the actual number is expected to be much higher since the majority of foodborne illness cases are not reported, VCH stated. In 2014, 16 cases were reported by the end of August. Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a naturally occurring bacterium in coastal waters that can cause human illness. Symptoms include watery diarrhea, cramps, vomiting and fever, all of which can last up to a week. Vibrio parahaemolyticus thrive in warmer waters, and reports of illness generally increase in the summer months. This year, however, reports are high enough to warrant additional prevention measures. Members of the public are also advised to cook oysters harvested in BC, and, if they wish to consume raw oysters, to choose oysters harvested elsewhere at this time.
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