Exposure to shellfish is the likely cause of an outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus occurring in four Canadian provinces.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), 21 confirmed cases of Vibrio parahaemolyticus illness were reported through mid-October in the following provinces: Saskatchewan (1), Quebec (7), New Brunswick (10), and Prince Edward Island (3).
Symptoms of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infection may include:
- Watery diarrhea
- Abdominal cramps
- Bloody diarrhea
The Vibrio infections occurred between early July and mid-September 2020. No deaths occurred, but one individual required hospitalization.
Individuals who became sick reported eating shellfish, mainly raw oysters, harvested from eastern coastal waters before their illnesses occurred.
Consumers can reduce, but not totally eliminate, the risk of getting Vibrio with the following strategies:
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked shellfish.
- Get your shellfish products from a licensed establishment or harvest them from a fishing area which is open under the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP), Fisheries and Ocean Canada.
- Store and transport shellfish at 4ºC (39ºF) in the refrigerator or on ice from the time purchased until cooking or eating.
- Shellfish must be cooked to a safe internal temperature of 74ºC (165ºF) to kill bacteria like Vibrio.
- Follow proper safe food handling practices when preparing and cooking shellfish:
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after handling any shellfish.
- Always clean and properly sanitize any cutting boards, counters, kitchen surfaces, knives, and other utensils used to prepare raw shellfish.
- Use only drinking-quality water for rinsing shellfish.
- 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.
- Wear protective clothing (like gloves) when handling raw shellfish.
- Avoid exposing open wounds or broken skin to warm salt or brackish water, or to raw shellfish.
- Avoid taking antacids prior to eating oysters, or other seafood, as reduced stomach acid may favor the survival and growth of Vibrio.
- If you have been diagnosed with a Vibrio infection or any other gastrointestinal illness, do not cook food for other people.
- Contact your local public health authority to report any food safety concerns at restaurants, grocery stores, or if you suspect food poisoning from a restaurant or other food establishments.
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