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Date: Thu 26 Jul 2012
Source: British Columbia Centre for Disease Control [edited] <http://www.bccdc.ca/resourcematerials/newsandalerts/healthalerts/Advisory%20-%20shellfish%20safety>

The BC Centre for Disease Control is reminding the public that there is a risk of illness associated with eating raw or undercooked bivalve shellfish such as oysters, clams, mussels, scallops, and cockles.

Shellfish may accumulate bacteria (_Vibrio parahaemolyticus_), viruses (norovirus, hepatitis A), and toxins (paralytic shellfish poisoning, diarrhetic shellfish poisoning) or other impurities present in the water. Thorough cooking destroys bacteria and viruses, but does not destroy toxins.

To date in 2012, 5 cases of locally-acquired _Vibrio parahaemolyticus_ infection have been reported. In 2011, 42 cases of vibrio were reported. These illnesses have been linked to raw shellfish served in restaurants, bought at retail, or self-harvested in communities throughout the province including, Gibsons, Sechelt, Powell River, Ladysmith, Qualicum, Ucluelet, Gabriola Island, Cortes Island and Parksville.

In addition to individual cases, BC has also experienced outbreaks associated with shellfish. In 2010, an outbreak of norovirus from raw oysters affected over 30 people, and in 2011 more than 60 people became ill after consuming cooked mussels contaminated with diarrhetic shellfish poisoning.

Safety tips to reduce the risk of all shellfish-related illnesses:

- Purchase shellfish ONLY from approved sources. All bivalve shellfish sold in British Columbia must come from a federally approved source, and outlets and restaurants selling them must be able to provide a shellfish shipper's tag, which ensures federal inspection.

- Consume only cooked shellfish. Cooking will destroy viruses and bacteria and decrease the risk of gastrointestinal illness. When cooking shellfish at home, ensure shellfish are kept in a cold environment at all times, use drinking-quality water to rinse ready-to-eat shellfish, and ensure adequate cooking time. To ensure adequate cooking, test oysters with a meat thermometer and make sure the temperature reaches 90 C (195 F) for 90 seconds. This will kill the vibrio bacteria and minimize the risk of other infections.

- Do not cross-contaminate when handling raw and cooked seafood.
Prevent cross-contamination by storing raw and cooked seafood separately, cleaning and sanitizing knives and cutting boards, and working with clean hands.

- Obey posted warnings and bans when self harvesting shellfish. To check whether a shellfish area is open for harvesting, call the Department of Fisheries and Oceans toll-free at 1-866-431-3474.

Communicated by:

[It is important to stress that _Vibrio parahaemolyticus_ is naturally present in marine waters and does not imply sewage contamination, as would be the case with _Salmonella_ sp. or _E. coli_. It is most common in warmer waters such as those of the American Gulf Coast, but warmer waters in more northern climates such as in Washington State, Alaska and British Columbia, can also be associated with shellfish-associated _V. parahaemolyticus_. - Mod.LL

A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:

[see also:
Vibrio parahaemolyticus, oysters - USA (02): (CA) 20110913.2786 Vibrio parahaemolyticus, oysters - USA: (WA) 20110807.2394 2010
Vibrio parahaemolyticus, oysters - USA: (WA) 20100803.2604
Vibrio parahaemolyticus, seafood - Chile 20081223.4041 Vibrio parahaemolyticus, oysters - USA: (MD ex NJ) 20080821.2608
Vibrio parahaemolyticus, oysters - USA (WA): int'l alert
Vibrio parahaemolyticus, shellfish - Chile: 2005 20070321.0991 Vibrio parahaemolyticus, shellfish - Chile (San Antonio)
Vibrio parahaemolyticus, shellfish - USA (multistate) (03)
Vibrio parahaemolyticus, shellfish - USA (multistate) 20060807.2211 Vibrio parahaemolyticus, shellfish - USA (WA, NY) (05) 20060805.2175 Vibrio parahaemolyticus, shellfish - USA (WA, NY) 20060721.1999 Vibrio parahaemolyticus - North America: background 20060717.1963 Vibrio parahaemolyticus, oysters - North America: USA (OR, WA), Canada
(BC) 20060716.1956
Vibrio parahaemolyticus, seafood - Chile (Puerto Montt) (03)
Vibrio parahaemolyticus, seafood - Chile (Puerto Montt) 20050118.0163
Food poisoning, birthday guests - USA (FL) (02): vibrio parahaemolyticus 20040927.2664 Food poisoning, birthday guests - USA (FL) 20040922.2619 Vibrio parahaemolyticus, oysters - USA (AK) (02) 20040822.2335 Vibrio parahaemolyticus, oysters - USA (AK) 20040803.2113
Vibrio parahaemolyticus, shellfish - USA (NY): alert 20020822.5111 Vibrio parahaemolyticus, O3:K6 - USA, Asia 20020716.4770 2000
Vibrio parahaemolyticus, oysters - USA (Texas) 20000928.1676
Vibrio parahaemolyticus, oysters - USA (multistate) 19990725.1252] .................................................ll/msp/dk
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