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UPDATE: Illness Associated With Herring Eggs - Vancouver Island

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April 6 Update: Illness Associated With Herring Eggs - Vancouver Island:

The First Nations Health Authority and Island Health would like to confirm that Vibrio cholerae bacteria has been found in both herring eggs and water samples collected in the French Creek area and Qualicum Bay closure areas. There have been no further confirmed cases of Vibrio cholerae infection and there are no changes to the current fishery harvest area closures.

While lab identified Vibrio cholerae infection is rare on the West Coast, viruses and bacteria are a known risk from eating raw seafood. It is unknown if the finding of Vibrio cholerae bacteria in the area will have any implications to future harvesting. FNHA and Island Health is continuing the investigation with First Nations and agency partners. Additional information will be shared when available with all partners and the public.​

Please note, for safe disposal of herring eggs harvested from the French Creek and Qualicum Bay areas, it is recommended that frozen herring eggs be disposed of securely in a garbage can until regular garbage pick-up. Do not feed to pets or animals.



March 29 Update

The First Nations Health Authority and Island Health investigation regarding Vibrio cholera bacteria associated with eating herring eggs (eggs laid in the marine environment) is still ongoing.

Harvesters are reminded to check area closures prior to harvesting bivalves to prevent illness.

Please be advised:

• Herring and herring roe (harvested directly from fish) are still considered safe to consume. ​
 
⦁ Do not consume herring eggs harvested from French Creek to Qualicum Bay area from kelp, seaweed or other surfaces.
 
⦁ If you are ill, ensure you are drinking small amounts of fluid frequently to keep hydrated. Visit your physician or health center to ensure treatment and confirmation of the cause of illness. Let your health care provider know if you have eaten raw or lightly-cooked herring eggs within 5 days of onset of illness or caring for someone who became ill after eating herring eggs.
 
⦁ Discard any extra stored herring eggs harvested within French Creek to Qualicum Bay area to avoid further illness. Freezing does not kill the bacteria.
 
⦁ When handling herring eggs, practice proper handwashing and sanitize dishes and equipment to avoid cross contamination.​

Learn more about safe fish and shellfish at http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/food-your-health/fish-shellfish and Vibrio cholerae infection at www.cdc.gov/cholera/index.html.

Find more information on Food Safety for First Nations communities at:
http://www.fnha.ca/wellness/wellness-for-first-nations/environmental-health-and-safety/food-safety. Advice on symptoms can also be obtained by calling BC HealthLink at 811.


​​March 23 Update:

To date, only herring eggs harve​sted in the French Creek to Qualicum Bay area have been associated with three confirmed cases of Vibrio cholerae infection. Other people have become ill, and test results are pending. These cases are only associated with herring eggs laid in the marine environment, and not herring roe which is harvested directly from the fish.  Potentially contaminated herring eggs laid in the marine environment are likely limited to this area at this time.

PLEASE NOTE: As of 18:00 March 23, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has issued an emergency closure on Herring Egg Harvest in Mid-Vancouver ​Island. For more information on this closure please contact: Brenda Spence 250-616-0702 Fisheries and Oceans Canada Operations Center and visit: http://notices.df​o-mpo.gc.ca/fn​s-sap/index-eng.cfm?pg=view_notice&DOC_ID=206365&ID=all

First Nations Health and Fisheries Leads,​​

The First Nations Health Authority and Island Health are warning the public following confirmed cases of Vibrio cholerae infection associated with eating herring eggs. The bacteria can be found in the aquatic environment and can cause intestinal illness after eating contaminated foods. Illness may include mild to severe nausea, vomiting, and very severe watery diarrhea. Some people don’t become ill and don’t know they have been infected. Health authorities are asking you to take the following precautions and actions:

⦁ Do not consume herring eggs harvested from French Creek to Qualicum Bay area from kelp, seaweed or other surfaces.

⦁ If you are ill, ensure you are drinking small amounts of fluid frequently to keep hydrated. Visit your physician or health center to ensure treatment and confirmation of the cause of illness. Let your health care provider know if you have eaten raw or lightly-cooked herring eggs within 5 days of onset of illness or caring for someone who became ill after eating herring eggs.

⦁ The bacteria can be passed from person to person, even if you don’t have symptoms. Always wash your hands well after going to the bathroom or caring​ for someone who has been ill.

⦁ If you have stored herring eggs, please call First Nations Health Authority Environmental Public Health Services at 250-924-6125. Samples are being requested for testing (keep cold and in original packaging).

⦁ Discard any extra stored herring eggs to avoid further illness. Freezing does not kill the bacteria.

⦁ When handling herring eggs, practice proper handwashing and sanitize dishes and equipment to avoid cross contamination.

⦁ Ensure other community members who may have received herring eggs are aware of these precautions and actions. If they are ill, we request that they be in contact with their physician or Health Center.

⦁ A sanitary shellfish closure exists for bivalves in the French Creek/Qualicum Bay area. Harvesters are reminded to check area closures prior to harvesting bivalves to prevent illness.

The investigation into the Vibrio cholerae infection cases is ongoing and in collaboration with BC Center for Disease Control and First Nations communities. This includes the testing of marine water samples, leftover food samples, clinical samples and assessing the handling and distribution of the harvested product.

This is a unique situation and as more information becomes available it will be shared. Implications on future harvesting is unclear at this time. Any future advice or recommendations will be made in partnership with First Nations communities.

Learn more about safe fish and shellfish at www.bccdc.ca/health-info/food-your-health/fish-shellfish and Vibrio cholerae infection at www.cdc.gov/cholera/index.html.

Find more information on Food Safety for First Nations communities at: www.fnha.ca/wellness/wellness-for-first-nations/environmental-health-and-safety/food-safety. Advice on symptoms can also be obtained by calling BC HealthLink at 811.

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Sincerely,

First Nations Health Autho​​rity 
Dr. Helena Swinkels

Island Health
Dr. Shannon Waters

Download this notice in PDF format here (PDF 103 KB)

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