Oyster production areas in South Australia’s Coffin Bay have been shut down after dozens of gastro cases emerged across the country.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA) closed production areas on Tuesday as a “precautionary measure” as part of an ongoing investigation into a recent rise in Vibrio parahaemolyticus cases, which causes gastroenteritis.
The formal closure is expected to remain in effect until early next week. No oysters can leave the area during this period.
Since September, in South Australia alone, there have been 45 cases linked to eating raw oysters, compared to zero cases in 2020 and eight in 2019.
Last Friday, SA Health warned vulnerable residents to avoid eating raw oysters after 36 cases had been recorded in recent weeks.
Acting Director of Food and Controlled Drugs Branch, Joanne Cammans said the increasing case numbers were “very concerning”.
“Food-borne illnesses can be quite serious for more vulnerable people in our community, such as older South Australians, pregnant people and people with compromised immune systems,” Cammans said.
On Saturday, WA Health issued a similar warning about raw or partially cooked oysters originating in South Australia after 17 people who fell ill in the state – all bar one had eaten raw oysters. The other ate partially cooked oysters.
Victorian health authorities confirmed it too had recorded eight cases since October 8.
Executive Director of Biosecurity Nathan Rhodes said the closure would provide the PIRSA “the opportunity to trace back recent cases and enable further investigations”.
“PIRSA has consulted with industry, who have supported the closure, and has been working with SA Health on the public health impacts of the outbreak,” he said.
“Many growers had already voluntarily closed their harvesting operations.”
Rhodes said PIRSA would continue to work with the industry to investigate the likely cause of this current outbreak and ensure best practice quality controls are in place for the remainder of the sector.
Foodborne Vibrio parahaemolyticus infection can be acquired by eating undercooked shellfish and fish.
Symptoms can include gastro, including watery diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever and headache and usually occur within 24 hours of eating the contaminated food.
Raw unshucked Pacific Oysters should be stored at less than 10C and shucked Pacific Oysters at less than 5C.
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