Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is warning consumers to take steps to protect their health following an increase in cases of norovirus associated with consumption of raw B.C. oysters. Since Monday, March 14, more than 50 people have been affected with acute gastrointestinal illness, such as stomach pain, diarrhea or vomiting, after eating raw oysters. Lab testing has confirmed the presence of norovirus in some of the cases and it is suspected in others. The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has issued a notice to restaurants and retailers in B.C. to advise them of the risk.
Based on an investigation by the BCCDC, local and federal agencies, and the shellfish industry, affected harvest areas are being closed and will reopen when contamination is cleared. Learn more about Norovirus here. In-depth information about how it contaminates the marine environment can be found here.
How to cook oysters
To kill norovirus and other germs it is recommended to cook oysters thoroughly, to an internal temperature of 90 degrees Celsius for 90 seconds before eating. Public health recommends against consuming raw oysters. Avoid cross-contamination of other foods during preparation and eat shellfish immediately after cooking.
Symptoms of norovirus include nausea, cramping, chills, fever, vomiting and diarrhea, and usually occur 12-48 hours after consumption. If you experience these symptoms after eating raw oysters, call BC HealthLink at 811. If symptoms are severe or persist, seek medical attention.
Report your illness
Oyster-related illness should be reported to VCH for investigation by calling (604) 675-3800 or by e-mail to EHVC@vch.ca.
Learn more about the safe consumption of fish and shellfish at http://www.bccdc.ca/health- info/prevention-public-health/fish-shellfish-safety