VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Before digging for clams or harvesting mussels along province’s coast, the BC Centre for Disease Control is warning about a spike in illness associated with shellfish consumption in recent days.
Five people have been sick with V. parahaemolyticus (vibriosis) in the last two weeks, according to the BCCDC.
Symptoms of the foodborne illness associated with shellfish consumption include nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
The vibrio bacteria is naturally occurring in the ocean, and grows in molluscan shellfish such as clams, oysters, and mussels. Small amounts are not uncommon, but with warmer water, the bacteria can multiply rapidly. Experts say the recent heatwave created a perfect storm for more infections related to those eating shellfish.
The largest outbreak of vibriosis in B.C. history occurred in 2015, when 62 persons became ill. There are concerns if people don’t follow the latest warnings, this year could also be record-breaking.
A massive increase in the illness has already been reported south of the border.
Washington State Department of Health issued similar warnings after 52 cases of vibriosis was reported in the first few weeks of July.
More than two dozen people became ill from eating commercial oysters, and four others were sick after eating shellfish they had harvested themselves.
Several popular areas in Washington state have been closed to harvesting as a result, including Discovery Bay.
Here in B.C., shellfish harvesters are urged to check the map before digging for clams, or collecting mussels and other shellfish to prevent serious illness.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada closes areas to harvesting shellfish when there are toxins or bacteria present that can cause serious illness if eaten.
Cooking shellfish is also advised, although it does not kill all biotoxins, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Following the record-breaking heatwave, experts say the heat caused harm to many intertidal shellfish and invertebrate species. Mass die offs were reported, and scientists are still trying to determine the long-term effects of the heat on shellfish mortality rates.
With files from Associated Press