Oyster farmers still looking for cause of norovirus outbreak

Over 200 people now sick in BC, Alberta and Ontario.

200 People in BC, Alberta and now Ontario are reporting cases of norovirus, with it’s diarrhea, cramps and vomiting.

The virus is not uncommon but in these cases their illnesses have been traced back to oysters from BC.

Keith Reid has an oyster farm in Deep Bay and sells about 12 million oysters a year.

He says his farm has been cleared but it has been disruptive to the industry.

“There has been multiple tests taken from many oyster leases and they’ve not been able to find conclusively where the problem originated” said Reid. 

One theory is the virus got into the water from untreated sewage and from there it gets into the filter feeding oysters and then people become infected by eating it.

It’s likely the number of people sick from the oysters is probably higher than 200 because many fall ill but don’t report it.

The association that represents shellfish growers in BC says the cause could be a number of things.

“We’re exploring all causes. It could be a combination of things, and I’m just hypothesising, of weird currents, cold temperatures, waste input into the water. Reality is norovirus only comes from one place and one place only” said Darlene Winterburn, Executive Director of the BC Shellfish Grower’s Association. 

The industry says it is working with the the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and other agencies to try to pinpoint the source and whether there’s future risk.

“I think the biggest thing for the public to know is that we as an industry are doing everything we that we can to ensure the safety of the food that we farm and that’s a critical element for us” added Winterburn.