Canadian health officials at all levels are investigating an outbreak of norovirus and gastrointestinal illnesses involving four provinces.
Based on the investigation findings to date, the outbreak is linked to consumption of raw oysters from B.C. Some oyster harvesting areas in B.C. that have been associated with illnesses in this outbreak have been closed as a part of the investigation. These closures aim to prevent further illness.
As of March 30, 2022, there have been 279 cases of norovirus and gastrointestinal illness linked to consumption of B.C. oysters reported in the following provinces: B.C. (262), Alberta (1), Saskatchewan (1), and Ontario (15). Individuals became sick between mid-January and late March 2022, and no deaths have been reported. Although not all cases of illness have been tested, testing of several cases has confirmed the presence of a norovirus infection.
Food recalls were conducted on February 18, March 20, March 23, and March 27, 2022 for oysters from B.C.
Acute gastrointestinal illnesses such as norovirus illness are common in North America and are very contagious, affecting all age groups. However, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, young children and the elderly are at risk for developing more serious complications, like dehydration.
Raw oysters contaminated with noroviruses may look, smell and taste normal. The following safe food-handling practices will reduce your risk of getting sick:
- Do not eat, use, sell, or serve any recalled oysters.
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked oysters. Cook oysters to an internal temperature of 90° Celsius (194° Fahrenheit) for a minimum of 90 seconds before eating.
- Discard any oysters that did not open while cooking.
- Eat oysters right away after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.
- Always keep raw and cooked oysters separate to avoid cross-contamination.
- Do not use the same plate or utensils for raw and cooked shellfish, and wash counters and utensils with soap and warm water after preparation.
- Wash your hands well with soap before and after handling any food. Be sure to clean and sanitize cutting boards, counters, knives and other utensils after preparing raw foods.
Noroviruses can be transmitted by ill individuals and are able to survive relatively high levels of chlorine and varying temperatures. Cleaning and disinfecting practices are the key to preventing further illnesses in your home.
- Thoroughly clean contaminated surfaces, and disinfect using chlorine bleach, especially after an episode of illness.
- After vomiting or diarrhea, immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with the virus (use hot water and soap).
- If you have been diagnosed with norovirus illness or any other gastrointestinal illness, do not prepare food or pour drinks for other people while you have symptoms, and for the first 48 hours after you recover.
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