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Untested Southeast shellfish may carry poison

Possible case of paralytic shellfish poisoning discovered

Posted: June 17, 2014 - 12:04am

The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium is warning Alaskans not to harvest or eat shellfish from the Southeast region after a probable case of paralytic shellfish poisoning was discovered over the weekend.

The suspected case of PSP stems from a patient eating razor and possibly butter clams from Clam Gulch. The disease is potentially lethal, and can lead to fatal repository paralysis, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

The toxin comes from the algae shellfish eat, and there is no simple way to tell if the shellfish is carrying the toxin. Butter clams can carry the poison up to two years. Symptoms can start immediately after eating the shellfish or hours later, and include a tingling of the lips and tongue initially.

More serious cases can progress to a loss of control of a victim’s arms and legs, which is followed by difficulty breathing. In some cases, death can occur within just a couple hours.

The disease is most prevalent in shellfish during late-spring and the summer, but can be found in shellfish during any time of the year. It is recommended that Alaskans only consume commercially grown and harvested shellfish from grocery stores and restaurants that undergo regular testing for the poison before going to market.

The poison cannot be cooked, cleaned or frozen out of shellfish, according to a Department of Health and Social Services statement.

• Contact reporter Matt Woolbright at 523-2243 or at matthew.woolbright@juneauempire.com.

Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reportermatt.

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