There are fears a gastroenteritis outbreak caused by contaminated oysters in Tasmania over the Easter weekend has spread interstate.
Tasmania's Director of Public Health, Dr Roscoe Taylor, confirmed on Wed 3 Apr 2013 that Victoria's health department was "investigating cases of gastro that may be related to eating Barilla Bay oysters supplied on 25 Mar 2013."
The announcement comes hours after Tasmania's Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that more than 60 Tasmanians had contracted gastroenteritis after eating oysters traced to Barilla Bay Seafoods and grown at Dunalley in the state's south. A spokesman for the department confirmed that the contaminated oysters were also sold in Melbourne and Sydney. It is believed that up to 20 people in Melbourne have reported the illness; however, tests have not yet confirmed whether they are linked to the Barilla Bay oysters.
"There are reports of Victorian people having gastro," the spokesman said. "There is a smoking gun, but as yet, there is no direct link proved by testing at this stage."
Barilla Bay Seafoods halted the sale of its oysters on Sun 31 Mar 2013 pending investigations, and all potentially contaminated shellfish have been withdrawn across Australia. The department said it did not yet know what caused the contamination. It is not believed to be related to a sewage spill at nearby Pitt Water and Island Inlet which forced the closure of several leases last week. However, it is still investigating how a lease owned by Barilla Bay in a separate growing area came to be contaminated.
The department said the batches of oysters that caused the gastro outbreak were harvested on 27-29 Mar 2013 and may have been sold up to and including Easter Sunday [31 Mar 2013].
Barilla Bay Seafoods was not available for comment; however, the executive officer for Oysters Tasmania, Tom Lewis, said he believed the contamination was isolated. "All evidence at the moment is pointing towards just oysters from one lease that were harvested between Monday and Friday of last week. So, it's a really small, isolated incident from everything we know at the moment," he said. "My feeling is if it was broader than that, we would be seeing evidence of that already, and we're not."
"Victorian consumers should contact Victoria Health for more information about gastro symptoms," Dr Taylor said in a statement.