Deadly toxins found in foraged shellfish
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is reminding Alaskans that consuming shellfish you harvest yourself can be deadly. High levels of algal toxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning have been found in shellfish from several Alaska communities, a Wednesday release from the department states.
A single shellfish can contain high enough levels of the toxins to kill a human within hours. PSP toxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing the shellfish, and there is no antitoxin.
“There are NO beaches that are certified or designated as ‘safe’ beaches for shellfish harvesting in Alaska. Non-commercially harvested shellfish may contain paralytic shellfish toxins that, if ingested, can cause death. Anyone consuming non-commercial shellfish does so at his or her own risk,” the release reads.
Commercially-harvested seafood is considered safe to eat because the state requires harvesters to regularly test their catches for PSP toxins.
Southeast Alaska Tribal Ocean Research and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Environmental Research Lab test foraged shellfish from beaches all over Alaska and issue advisories for certain sites that show elevated levels of the toxins. According to the release, some of their recent tests have recorded toxins at levels 50 times the threshold of what’s safe for humans.
Symptoms of PSP can begin within minutes of eating a contaminated shellfish. First, there’s tingling in the lips and tongue which can then progress to the fingers and toes. Then comes loss of muscle control in the arms and legs followed by difficulty breathing and paralysis of muscles in the chest and abdomen.
If you think you have PSP symptoms, immediately call 911 and seek medical attention.
Suspected cases PSP should also be reported to the State of Alaska Section of Epidemiology at 907-269-8000 so public health officials can work to prevent additional cases.
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