Canadian Norovirus Outbreak Blamed on Oysters From BC

Consumers in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario have been infected with Norovirus after consuming raw or undercooked oysters from British Columbia, according to a report released today by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). In all, 202 individuals have become ill: 143 in British Columbia, 35 in Alberta and 24 in Ontario.

The outbreak of gastrointestinal illnesses was first reported on January 13, 2017 by the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), with more than 70 illnesses having been reported to Island Health, Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health and First Nations Health Authority beginning early in December. According to BCCDC, affected consumers had eaten raw oysters or lightly-cooked oysters in restaurants or prepared at home.

On January 20, Alberta Health Services added its voice to the Norovirus alert, reporting ten cases in the Edmonton area between January 10th and 12th.

On Febrary 2nd, the Acting Chief Medical Officer of Ontario, Dr. David McKeown, announced that 24 cases of Norovirus illness associated with consumption of raw or undercooked oysters from British Columbia had been reported in Ontario “since January 2017.”

PHAC and all three provincial agencies are urging consumers to eat only properly cooked shellfish. Heating oysters to an internal temperature of 90° Celsius/194° Fahrenheit for a minimum of 90 seconds will ensure inactivation of Norovirus.