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Home > Latest News > Media Releases > Media Releases 2012 > December 2012 > Toxic shellfish poisoning

Toxic shellfish poisoning

Monday, 17 December 2012 11:00 a.m.

Five people have presented to Rotorua Hospital with symptoms of toxic shellfish poisoning with a further two unrelated cases seen at Tauranga Hospital.  Each person affected had eaten shellfish collected from the coastline between Mount Maunganui and Papamoa. Their symptoms ranged from tingling round the mouth and face, tingling of the skin on their arms and hands, mild weakness when walking, and diarrhoea and vomiting. 

As the summer holiday season approaches, Dr Phil Shoemack, Medical Officer of Health, would like to remind the public that the health warning due to shellfish toxins along parts of the Coromandel and Bay of Plenty coastline is still in place.

"We have had reports that people have been continuing to eat shellfish and have felt unwell after doing so.  The toxins can make people very ill and we strongly advise not consuming shellfish from any part of the affected area," says Dr Shoemack.  He adds   "the cases seen at local hospitals in the past day is a stark reminder of the risk of ignoring the warning.

Since August 2012 high levels of paralytic shellfish poison have been found in shellfish along a significant stretch of coastline. A health warning is already in place advising against the collection of shellfish from Tairua on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, south to Waihi Beach and along the Bay of Plenty coast to Whakatane Heads in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. The warning includes Tairua Harbour as well as Tauranga Harbour, Maketu and Waihi estuaries, Matakana and Motiti islands, and all other inshore islands along this coastline.

The health warning applies to all bi-valve shellfish including mussels, pipi, tuatua, cockles, oysters, scallops as well as cat's-eyes and kina (sea urchin).  Shellfish in the affected area should not be taken or consumed. Paua, crayfish and crabs can still be taken but as always, the gut should be removed before cooking.

Consumption of shellfish affected by the paralytic shellfish toxin can cause numbness and tingling around the mouth, face or extremities; difficulty swallowing or breathing; dizziness; double vision; and in severe cases, paralysis and respiratory failure. These symptoms usually occur within 12 hours of a person consuming affected shellfish.  Anyone suffering illness after eating shellfish should seek medical attention.

For up to date information on health warnings in Bay of Plenty go to www.ttophs.govt.nz and click on health warnings.  Or call 0800 221 555 and select option 6 to speak to the on call Health Protection Officer.

For further information or comment, contact:

Dr Phil Shoemack
Medical Officer of Health -Toi Te Ora - Public Health Service
Ph: 021 228 5534