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

Man charged after knife waved at 7-Eleven store clerk

Port Alberni’s Jared Dallen Stein charged after consecutive robberies

New scholarship at Pacific Coast University boosts disability retraining

BY MIKE YOUDS SPECIAL TO THE NEWS A new scholarship provides a… Continue reading

Applications open for bursary, scholarship funding at North Island College

Current and future North Island College students are eligible to apply

Cheetham Team comes in second at Alberni Valley bonspiel

The annual mixed bonspiel drew 37 teams from across the Island and Lower Mainland

Seedy Saturday draws many green thumbs in Port Alberni

Char’s Landing was the place to be last Saturday

VIDEO: Port Alberni welcomes Gathering Our Voices delegates

Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations welcomed guests during opening ceremonies

ICBC shifts to Alberta model, with higher rates, private insurers say

Minor injury cap, court restrictions take effect April 1 in B.C.

B.C., feds accused of ‘environmental racism’ over Site C, Mount Polley

Amnesty International Canada says governments failed to recognize threats to Indigenous peoples

New Leger polls suggests federal Liberals lagging Conservatives

Overall, 31 per cent of respondents polled said they would vote for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals

Number of homeless deaths more than doubled in B.C. as opioid crisis set in

New data shows trend between more overdose deaths and the number of people dying in the street

Four people spat on in ‘random, unprovoked’ assaults: Vancouver police

Police ask additional victims to come forward after woman in a wheelchair spat on

Man charged after knife waved at 7-Eleven store clerk

Port Alberni’s Jared Dallen Stein charged after consecutive robberies

Indian Day School students eligible for $10K apiece

Islanders included in settlement package reached with Canada’s federal government

Most Read