Thursday, March 21, 2019

Caution urged for shellfish consumers following cases of Paralytic Shellfish poisoning

Butter Clams harvested on Dundas Island in November
are being investigated as part of reports of shellfish poisoning

(Map from DFO website)

A cautionary alert has been issued for shellfish harvesters and customers on the North Coast after probable cases of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning were reported, with butter clams harvested last November on Dundas Island the item of note.

The warning was issued on Wednesday by Northern Health and the First Nations Health Authority, which advised that consumers should not consume butter clams harvested from areas that have not been tested for biotoxins, and/or are not open for harvest under the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program, including Dundas Island.

Butter clams should only be consumed when toxin is absent or found to be below harmful levels. Butter clams can retain toxins from harmful algal blooms for up to two years.

If you are ill, visit your physician, health centre or the emergency department immediately to ensure treatment and confirmation of the cause of illness. Let your health care provider know if you have eaten clams in the past 24 hours.

Cooking or freezing clams does not destroy the toxins. Cooked clams can still be toxic.

Some things to be aware of related to the health concern are:

Paralytic shellfish poisoning occurs from ingesting bivalve shellfish (such as mussels, oysters, and clams) that contain toxins produced by planktons during harmful algal blooms. These toxins can cause severe and life-threatening neurological effects. Symptoms include tingling and numbness spreading from lips, mouth to face and extremities, dizziness, arm and leg weakness, paralysis, difficulty breathing and death.

For Harvesters of shellfish, Northern Health and First Nations Health Authority provide some resources that offer up the latest notes on harvest areas of concern.

Harvesters are reminded to check area closures prior to harvesting clams to prevent illness. Always verify that the harvesting beach is open with your First Nations fisheries programs, the Department of Fisheries, or on the BC Centre of Disease website,

DFO Shellfish Harvesting Map

BC Centre for Disease Control

The investigation into the Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning cases is ongoing and in collaboration with BC Centre for Disease Control and First Nations communities. This includes the testing of leftover food samples, clinical samples and assessing the handling and distribution of the harvested product. Any future advice or recommendations will be made in partnership with First Nations communities.

You can review the full notice from Northern Health here.

For more notes related to the Health issues in the Northwest see our archive page here.

Background on fishery items can be explored further here.

To view the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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