After a record-breaking year in 2015 in British Columbia when dozens of people became infected with Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections, The BC Centre for Disease Control ( BCCDC ) has confirmed the first case of illness this summer linked to the bacterium known as Vibrio parahaemolyticus, or Vibrio and the consumption of raw oysters.
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.”
Oysters packaged without a shell are intended to be cooked; do not eat them raw. If you are planning to harvest shellfish, ensure the area is open for harvesting, always keep shellfish cold and only harvest on receding tides.
Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a bacterium in the same family as those that cause cholera. It lives in brackish saltwater and causes gastrointestinal illness in humans. V. parahaemolyticus naturally inhabits coastal waters in the United States and Canada and is present in higher concentrations during summer.
V. parahaemolyticus causes watery diarrhea often with abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. Usually these symptoms occur within 24 hours of ingestion. Illness is usually self-limited and lasts 3 days. Severe disease is rare and occurs more commonly in persons with weakened immune systems.