Raw oysters. (Photo: Stock File)
Shellfish industry hit by norovirus outbreak in BC oysters
Saturday, March 25, 2017, 01:40 (GMT + 9)
The outbreak of a mysterious norovirus that made hundreds of Canadians sick led to the closure of seven coastal oyster farms in British Columbia, which has been devastating for the local shellfish industry as there are still no answers as to what caused it.
Noroviruses are highly contagious and cause gastroenteritis in people, which includes flu-like symptoms, diarrhea and vomiting.
The Public Health Agency of Canada reported that as a result of the outbreak, 201 cases in B.C., 40 in Alberta and 48 in Ontario have been reported since December, CBC News reported
Federal agencies, including the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) have so far come up empty-handed since they started looking into the issue.
Referring to the outbreak, Darlene Winterburn, executive director of B.C.’s Shellfish Growers Association (BCSGA), said the cause of the norovirus has yet to be determined and government officials and scientists are examining a range of possibilities, including a sewage leak or perhaps an unusually cold winter that also meant less sunlight, which affected the oysters’ ability to filter toxins.
Meanwhile, to avoid being affected by the virus, the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends people fully cook their shellfish before consuming. The agency’s website says oysters should be cooked to an internal temperature of 90 C for a minimum of 90 seconds.