November 26, 2013 at 12:39 am #1404MikeKeymaster
Bay of Islands mussels have been contaminated with a toxin that can cause paralysis and respiratory failure when eaten. Health officials are warning people not to collect or eat shellfish gathered between Cape Wiwiki and Cape Brett after some mussels were found to contain unsafe levels of the Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) toxin. Poisoning symptoms include numbness and tingling around the mouth, face or extremities, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain, difficulty in swallowing or breathing, dizziness, double vision, and, in severe cases, paralysis and respiratory failure. Symptoms usually occur within 30 minutes to 12 hours of eating the shellfish. While the toxin can cause serious illness, there are no recorded cases of death by PSP in New Zealand. The poison is usually found in shellfish when an area has been affected by toxic algal bloom. PSP cannot be seen or tasted, and is not killed by freezing or cooking. The toxin was discovered during routine testing of non-commercial mussels in the Bay of Islands last week. Northland District Health Board shellfish programme co-ordinator Elizabeth Watts said the results were slightly above the limit of 0.8mg of toxin per kilogram of shellfish flesh. Mussels were a good indicator of PSP toxin since they fed on algae, Ms Watts said. People who become ill after eating shellfish from anywhere in Northland should consult their doctor.
So far no one has been diagnosed with PSP. The last time PSP forced a closure of Northland waters for shellfish gathering was in October 2003, when the west coast from Kaipara to Manganui Bluff was affected. In February 2005 a different toxin forced closure of the Bay of Islands. The health board will now mount a publicity campaign warning people not to eat Bay of Islands shellfish – including signs at boat ramps and beaches, and warnings through DOC and marinas. The Health Ministry will alert GPs. There is no way of predicting how long the toxicity will last, Ms Watts said. “Further sampling will be undertaken and the public will be informed when the limits have declined to below regulatory levels.” Anyone with queries about shellfish safety can call Elizabeth Watts on (09) 430-4101 ext. 7852.’);
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