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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Haida Nation reminds ‘select few’ fishing lodges that Haida Gwaii is closed to non-essential travel

‘Upholding Haida law amid COVID-19’ release comes one day before Queen Charlotte Lodge plans to reopen

PHOTOS: ‘Phengnominal’ gnome house constructed in Port Clements

‘Ms. Gnomer’s Home 4 Wayward Folk,’ created by Kelly Whitney-Gould, a hit for kids and loggers alike

Councillor resigns mid-term in Queen Charlotte

Richard Decembrini’s resignation announced at regular meeting on July 6

Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Three projects on the North Coast awarded funding

Skidegate band members donate 400 pounds of salmonberries

More than 45 band members participated in first-ever Salmonberry Picking Contest on June 28

B.C. identifies 20 new COVID-19 cases, travellers specified in count

Pandemic total 3,028 cases, 51 people from outside Canada

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Large rogue floating ‘island’ corralled by Lac la Hache residents

At least 60 feet wide, this large mass of plants is free-floating on the lake

B.C. ports part of data integration project to protect marine ecosystems

The $1.2 M federally funded program will draw crucial baseline data from Canada’s three coastlines

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

Hefty undeclared driver charges piling up, ICBC warns customers

Average extra penalty $2,971 after an at-fault accident

Survey, hotline launched amid probe into racist blood-alcohol guessing game at B.C. hospital

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed to lead an investigation by Health Minister Adrian Dix

B.C. appeals judge’s decision to leave three clubhouses in Hells Angels hands

The province has filed two notices of appeal related to the B.C. Supreme Court decision

Most Read