In a news release Wednesday, the Department of Health and Social Services says the year’s first potential case of paralytic shellfish poisoning has been reported in the state. The department is reminding Alaskans about the dangers of PSP, how to avoid the deadly toxins and what to do in the case of possible exposure.

When ingested, paralytic shellfish toxins can cause tingling in the lips and tongue, followed by numbness in the fingers and toes, trouble controlling muscles in the arms and legs and difficulty breathing. If the muscles of the chest and abdomen become paralyzed, death can happen within hours. There is no antitoxin.

People who harvest their own shellfish do so at their own risk, the department says. People often look for signs of a “red tide” to predict whether the toxins might be present, but there is no way to tell if a beach is safe just by looking at it, DHSS says. The toxins leading to PSP can be found long after an algae bloom and in water that looks clear.

Anyone who starts exhibiting signs of PSP should immediately call 911 or their primary doctor, and then notify the nearest public health agency.

The recent suspected PSP case reported to DHSS came from the area of Perryville, on the Alaska Peninsula. The patient started showing symptoms consistent with PSP shortly after eating a clam harvested from the beach. The person was evaluated at a Dillingham hospital and has recovered, the department says.

After the case, the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation posted a warning on its Facebook page.

High levels of PSP toxins have recently been found in shellfish taken from Chignik Lagoon, Chignik Bay, King Cove and Sand Point, which could indicate a high risk for the toxins throughout the southern Alaska Peninsula.


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