Restaurants in Vancouver Coastal Health are required to cook oysters harvested in British Columbia before serving, and only oysters harvested outside of the province may be served raw at this time. Public health ordered this step in response to an ongoing outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infection related to consumption of raw oysters harvested in BC. This action is in addition to the ongoing public health warning in VCH restaurants about the increased risk of gastrointestinal illness associated with the consumption of all raw oysters.
Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a naturally occurring bacterium in coastal waters that can cause human illness. Symptoms include watery diarrhea, cramps, vomiting and fever, all of which can last up to a week. Vibrio parahaemolyticus thrive in warmer waters, and reports of illness generally increase in the summer months. This year, however, reports are high enough to warrant additional prevention measures.
Thirty-one cases associated with consumption of raw oysters have so far been reported in VCH, although the actual number is expected to be much higher since the majority of foodborne illness cases are not reported. In 2014, 16 cases were reported by the end of August.
Members of the public are also advised to cook oysters harvested in BC and if they wish to consume raw oysters, to choose oysters harvested elsewhere at this time.
Public Affairs Officer
Vancouver Coastal Health