Canada – Public Health Notice: Outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections linked to shellfish

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Food Illness

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Final Update

This notice has been updated to reflect that the outbreak appears to be over and the investigation is winding down.

Why you should take note

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) collaborated with provincial and territorial public health and food safety partners to investigate an outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections that occurred in four provinces. The outbreak appears to be over and the investigation is winding down.

Investigation findings identified exposure to shellfish as a likely source of the outbreak. The majority of the individuals who became sick reported eating shellfish, mainly raw oysters, harvested from Atlantic Canadian coastal waters, before their illnesses occurred.

Although the outbreak appears to be over, this event is a reminder that you can get sick from eating raw or undercooked shellfish, especially oysters. To prevent the risk of illness, shellfish should be cooked thoroughly to a safe internal temperature of 74°C (165°F) before eating or serving it.

This notice contains more advice on how to avoid getting sick.

What is Vibrio

Vibrio is a naturally-occurring bacterium that can be present at high levels in coastal waters during periods of increased water temperatures. Most people come in contact with Vibrio by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, especially oysters.

Investigation summary

In total, 23 confirmed cases of Vibrio parahaemolyticus illness were reported in the following provinces: Saskatchewan (1), Quebec (7), New Brunswick (10), and Prince Edward Island (5). Individuals became sick between early July and late October 2020. One individual was hospitalized. No deaths were reported. Individuals who became ill were between 11 and 92 years of age. The majority of illnesses (61%) were male.

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