June 21, 2024

Vibrio Cholerae Infections Associated with Herring Eggs in Canada

The First Nations Health Authority and Island Health is warning the public in Canada that confirmed cases of Vibrio cholerae infections have been reported in association with herrings eggs that are laid in the marine environment, and not in herring roe harvested from the fish. This bacteria causes a form of cholera, which is practically unknown in Canadian waters. You can see the possible contamination areas in the map below.

Vibrio Cholerae Herring BC Harvest Map

Canada has had just two cases of cholera a year since 2014. At least four people are sick in this outbreak. This infection is very rare in industrialized nations, but occurs in Africa, Haiti, and Southeast Asia, according to the CDC.

As of March 23, 2018, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has issued an emergency closure on Herring Egg Harvest in Mid-Vancouver Island. Potentially contaminated herring eggs laid in the marine environment are likely limited to this area at this time, according to the notice from Island Health.

The Vibrio cholerae bacteria live in brackish water. They cause an intestinal illness, with symptoms including mild to severe nausea, vomiting, and very severe watery diarrhea. Some people can be infected with Vibrio cholerae bacteria and not show any symptoms.

To protect yourself, do not consume any herring eggs harvested from French Creek to Qualicum Bay areas from kelp, seaweed, or other surfaces. If you have stored herring eggs, call the First Nations Health Authority Environmental Public Health Services at 250-924-6125. Samples are being requested form the public for testing. Keep the eggs cold and in the original package.

If you are sick, make sure that you avoid dehydration by drinking small amounts of fluid often. Visit your doctor for treatment and to confirm your illness. Let your health care provider know if you have eaten raw or lightly-cooked herring eggs within five days of illness onset, or if you are caring for someone who got sick after eating herring eggs.

The bacteria can be passed form person to person, even if someone does not have symptoms. Always wash your hands well after going to the bathroom or taking care of someone who is sick, especially if they have a diarrheal illness. If you have herring eggs, discard them. Freezing does not kill this bacteria.

This is an ongoing investigation. Officials are collaborating with the British Columbia Center for Disease Control and other First Nations communities. Public health officials are testing the marine water samples, leftover food samples, and are assessing handling and distribution of the product.

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