Island Health says it is investigating confirmed cases of cholera contracted by people who ate herring eggs on Vancouver Island.

The health authority is now warning the public not to consume herring eggs found on kelp, seaweed or other surfaces that have been harvested from the French Creek to Qualicum Bay area, as they could be tainted.

Island Health said there has been one confirmed case of cholera and two other suspected cases linked to eating herring eggs.

Vibrio cholerae is a bacterium found in water that can cause intestinal illness including the disease cholera. 

Symptoms can include mild to severe nausea, vomiting and watery diarrhea that can lead to severe dehydration – though Island Health says most infections are either asymptomatic or only result in mild diarrhea.

Anyone who has eaten herring eggs in the area and has fallen ill should drink small amounts of fluid frequently to stay hydrated and see a doctor, according to Island Health.

The bacteria can be passed from infected people even if they're not displaying symptoms, so the agency is recommending that people wash their hands well after using the bathroom or caring for someone who has contracted the illness.

Island Health says it is investigating the cases of infection along with the BC Center for Disease Control and the First Nations Health Authority, which will include testing water and food samples.

It called the situation "unique" and said it will release more information as it becomes available.

"Implications on future harvesting is unclear at this time," Island Health said in a statement. "Any future advice or recommendations will be made in partnership with First Nations communities."

A news release issued by the authority points out that a sanitary shellfish closure is also in effect for bivalves in the French Creek and Qualicum Bay area.

More information on vibrio cholerae and food safety can be found on the BCCDC and First Nations Health Authority websites.