FREDERICTON (GNB) – An outbreak of vibrio parahaemolyticus, related to shellfish, has been declared following nine confirmed cases in the province.

“As Public Health continues to investigate the specific cause of the outbreak 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 Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health. “Cook all shellfish such as mussels, oysters and clams thoroughly before eating.”

Vibrio parahaemolyticus is commonly associated with the consumption and handling of raw shellfish such as oysters, clams, and mussels.

The confirmed cases have been reported in the northern and eastern parts of the province. New Brunswick typically averages two to three cases of vibrio parahaemolyticus a year.

“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. “The risk of food poisoning can be minimized by following some simple food safety guidelines such as washing your hands before and after handling these foods; store raw shellfish and seafood at 4 C in the refrigerator or on ice before cooking and refrigerate leftovers promptly.”

Vibrio parahaemolyticus are a naturally occurring bacteria in sea water. The bacteria can grow in shellfish such as clams, oysters and mussels when seawater temperatures are warmer such as in summer months. Handling or eating raw or undercooked shellfish can result in illness. Symptoms usually appear within 12 to 24 hours after a person becomes infected. Most people who become ill have diarrhea, but they can also have headache, nausea, vomiting and fever. Symptoms usually last less than a week. The illness is not spread from person to person.

More information about food safety is available online.

Information from Fisheries and Oceans Canada on open shellfish harvesting areas are available online.