Health officials are offering some food safety advice as this year’s herring egg harvest opens along a section of Vancouver Island’s east coast. (File photo)

Health tips from officials as herring egg harvest opens on Vancouver Island

Outbreak of a cholera strain in 2018 forced closure of the harvest

Health officials are offering some food safety advice as this year’s herring egg harvest opens along a section of Vancouver Island’s east coast.

Hand-gathered herring eggs, known as spawn-on-kelp, are an important traditional seafood for many First Nations, but an outbreak of a cholera strain in 2018 forced closure of the harvest between French Creek and Qualicum Bay.

READ MORE: West coast group campaigns for seal, sea lion harvest

Island Health says in a news release that lab tests confirm a small group of people contracted the vibrio cholera bacteria last year after eating herring eggs from the affected region.

Officials say the bacteria are a “natural inhabitant” of the marine environment, are unable to produce the toxin found in more severe strains of cholera and are not from poor sanitation or sewage.

Vibrio cholera infections are relatively rare, but the health authority says when they do occur symptoms can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, vomiting, nausea, blood and mucus of the stool.

Until last year there had been no reported outbreaks, but a Health Canada and BC Centre for Disease Control review found salinity, acidity, temperature, sunlight and availability of nutrients can encourage the bacteria.

Water temperature above 10 C and sea water low in salt are two key factors in development of vibrio cholera, the review said.

“At the time of the March 2018 harvest, although water temperatures were below 10 degrees C, a relatively high rainfall could have affected different environmental factors, including lowering salinity and increasing nutrient availability,” it said.

The health authority urges harvesters to use bleach or a similar sanitizer on all harvesting and egg-carrying equipment, to wash hands before handling roe and to rinse the eggs with drinking-quality water or boiled, cooled salt water to remove some bacteria.

It also recommends the roe be cooked or blanched, but ”if cooking is not preferred, be aware that there is always a risk with eating raw seafood.”

Vibrio cholera is an emerging issue on the B.C. coast, the news release says, adding that First Nations, health authorities and the federal and provincial governments are working to better understand it.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Anticipation building for trip to D-Day anniversary for Chemainus students

Experience of being there promises to be a memorable one

Retired teacher’s generosity provides huge opportunity for two Chemainus Secondary students

Blitterswyk and Brown looking forward to being at Juno Beach for 75th anniversary of D-Day

Ladysmith storyteller chosen for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week

Ladysmith oral story teller Rachel Dunstan Muller recently returned from a tour of northern Quebec.

Cowichan Valley Regional District’s affordable-housing strategy moves forward

Board signs three-year financial agreement for initiatives

North Cowichan council denies rezoning bid for cannabis outlet in Chemainus

Site on Chemainus Road deemed too close to spaces frequented by youth

Killer of Calgary mother, daughter gets no parole for 50 years

A jury found Edward Downey guilty last year in the deaths of Sara Baillie, 34, and five-year-old Taliyah Marsman

Christmas morning burglar sentenced on Vancouver Island

Justin Redmond Feusse, 20, sentenced to 240 days in jail for Dec. 25 break-and-enter

So, do you know ‘Dave from Vancouver Island’?

Ontario man searching for fellow he travelled with in Europe 50 years ago

Toddler seriously injured after falling from Okanagan balcony

RCMP are investigating after a two-year-old boy fell from the balcony of an apartment in Kelowna

Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada Highway widening in B.C.

Revelstoke-area stretch first awarded under new union deal

Is vegan food a human right? Ontario firefighter battling B.C. blaze argues it is

Adam Knauff says he had to go hungry some days because there was no vegan food

Winds helping in battle against fire threatening northern Alberta town

Nearly 5,000 people have cleared out of High Level and nearby First Nation

B.C. sends 267 firefighters to help battle Alberta wildfires

Out of control fires have forced evacuations in the province

Most Read