On May 11, the Public Health Agency of Canada declared the outbreak of gastrointestinal illnesses linked to consumption of raw oysters from B.C., over.
Though the outbreak – which sickened 42 Albertans, with 230 in B.C. and 59 in Ontario – has concluded, Alberta Health Services (AHS) continues to remind Albertans of the health risks associated with consumption of raw oysters, and encourages all Albertans to take precautions.
“We had a number of people calling in to say they were sick and we traced it to the common source of eating oysters,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Medical Officer of Health, AHS. “They were sick within 12-48 hours of consumng raw oysters.”
Hinshaw said that although the outbreak has been declared over, raw shellfish should be avoided.
Here are some precautions that can be taken.
– Consume oysters cooked to an internal temperature of 90 C for 90 seconds. Avoid consumption of raw or undercooked oysters. Cooking will decrease the risk of illness.
– Discard any shellfish that do not open when cooked.
– Eat shellfish right away after cooking and promptly refrigerate leftovers.
– Keep raw and cooked shellfish separate.
– Keep purchased shellfish cold. Refrigerate immediately after purchase and keep at temperatures below 4 C.
– Wear protective clothing (such as gloves) and wash your hands before handling any food, frequently while handling raw shellfish, and after food preparation.
– Sanitize cutting boards, counters, knives and other utensils after preparing raw foods.
Illnesses associated with raw and undercooked oysters or other shellfish contaminated with viruses or bacteria commonly cause watery diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, fever, headache and bloody stools. Although anyone who consumes raw or undercooked shellfish is at risk of illness, people with weakened immune systems, young children, pregnant women and older adults are at increased risk for developing complications if they get sick.
Individuals who develop illness symptoms within 10 to 50 hours of eating oysters or other shellfish are advised to contact Health Link at 811 to report the illness. As with most gastrointestinal illnesses, symptoms typically last for one day to a week and usually do not require any treatment; however, any Albertan whose symptoms persist or become more severe should visit a doctor.