B.C. shellfish industry reels as norovirus sickens hundreds


The head of British Columbia's shellfish growers says the industry has been stunned by a mysterious norovirus that has forced the closure of seven coastal oyster farms and made hundreds of Canadians ill.

Darlene Winterburn says the cause of the norovirus has not been determined, but officials and scientists are examining a range of possibilities including a sewage leak.

Winterburn, executive director of B.C.'s Shellfish Growers Association, says they need to find the cause quickly, because the alternative could be devastating for the industry.

She says the far reach of the outbreak, which has been reported from oyster farms along much of the coast of Vancouver Island, is especially troubling.

Winterburn says more than 300 illnesses have been reported in B.C., Alberta, and Ontario from people eating raw or under cooked oysters that are linked to the B.C. oyster farms.

Noroviruses are highly contagious and cause gastroenteritis in people, which includes flu-like symptoms and diarrhea and vomiting.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says no deaths have been reported as a result of the outbreak, but cited 201 cases in B.C., 40 in Alberta and 48 in Ontario from December 2016 to February 2017.

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