N.B. declares outbreak of shellfish bacteria causing gastrointestinal illness

New Brunswick health officials have declared an outbreak of vibrio parahaemolyticus, a bacteria found in shellfish that causes gastrointestinal illness in humans.

The province says nine cases of vibrio have been confirmed. The average for New Brunswick is typically only two to three cases a year.

“I am advising all New Brunswickers to ensure that they obtain shellfish and other seafood from a licensed establishment or harvest shellfish from fishing zones which are currently open by Fisheries and Oceans Canada,” said N.B. chief of health Dr. Jennifer Russell in a news release.

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Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a bacteria that naturally occurs in seawater.

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The release says handling or eating raw or undercooked shellfish can result in illness.

The symptoms of vibrio illness appear 12 to 24 hours after infection and include diarrhea, headache, nausea vomiting and fever, the release says.

Symptoms usually last under a week, and the illness does not spread from person to person.

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“New Brunswickers are encouraged to enjoy healthy seafoods such as clams, mussels, and oysters but should be aware that warmer temperatures may increase the risks of bacteria in these foods,” said Russell in the release.

“The risk of food poisoning can be minimized by following some simple food safety guidelines,” she said.

Russell advises to keep shellfish in the refrigerator or on ice, and cooking all shellfish thoroughly before eating.

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