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Toxic shellfish poisoning strikes the Bay again

Tuesday, 9 December 2014 1:00 p.m.

In the past 24 hours reports of six people suffering from toxic shellfish poisoning have been received by the Medical Officer of Health. Each person affected had eaten shellfish collected from the coastline which has a current health warning. Dr Jim Miller, Medical Officer of Health, would like to remind the public that this health warning due to shellfish toxins along part of Bay of Plenty coastline is still in place.

“I’ve 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 I strongly advise not collecting or consuming shellfish from any part of the affected area,” says Dr Miller. 

“These are the first cases we have had reported since the Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) outbreak in the Bay of Plenty in late 2012. The PSP toxin levels in shellfish from this area are rising and I urge people to heed the warning and make sure that their visitors and friends are aware,” says Dr Miller.

A health warning was issued on 28th November 2014 advising against the collection of shellfish from Mount Maunganui and along the Bay of Plenty coast to Whakatane Heads in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. The warning includes all islands and estuaries along this part of the coastline.

The health warning applies to all bi-valve shellfish including mussels, pipi, tuatua, cockles, oysters, scallops as well as cat’s eyes, snails and kina (sea urchin).  Shellfish in the affected area should not be taken or eaten. Shellfish containing the toxin don't look or taste any different from shellfish that are safe to eat. Cooking or freezing the shellfish does not remove the toxin. Paua, crayfish and crabs can still be taken but as always, the gut should be removed before consuming.

Consumption of shellfish affected by the PSP toxin can cause numbness and tingling around the mouth, face, hands and feet; difficulty swallowing or breathing; dizziness; double vision; and in severe cases, paralysis and respiratory failure. These symptoms can start as soon as 1-2 hours after eating toxic shellfish and usually within 12 hours. Anyone suffering illness after eating shellfish should seek urgent medical attention.

Up-to-date information on the toxic shellfish health warning can be found through these channels:

Toxic Shellfish map