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Shellfish ban extends to include Wellington coast.

15 September 2000

Shellfish ban extends to include Wellington coast.

The Ministry of Health is warning the public not to collect or consume shellfish from the Kapiti and Wellington coast after high levels of toxic poisoning have been found in the shellfish.

Monitoring of shellfish on the Wellington and Kapiti Coast has shown a recent increase in the levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) in the shellfish.

The ban on taking shellfish now affects the whole of the west coast of the North Island from Cape Reinga to Baring Head, including Wellington Harbour and the south coast.

Eating of affected shellfish could cause serious illness, Ministry of Health Food Safety Team leader Jim Sim said today.

Symptoms of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning include: numbness and tingling (prickly feeling) around the mouth, face or extremities, headache and dizziness. Moderate to severe symptoms include a spread of the prickly areas, floating feeling, difficulty swallowing and speaking with slight difficulty in breathing and a rapid heart rate. Symptoms can progress to dizziness; double vision and paralysis and eventually breathing may stop.paralysis It is possible that these symptoms may take as long as 12 hours to start developing and then may progress rapidly causing respiratory failure within 2 hours. Overseas reports indicate that the affected person is aware of the symptoms throughout and can be quite calm.

If you are ill with these types of symptoms after eating shellfish from any area please consult your doctor immediately and advise health protection staff at your local public health service.

If somebody is seen to have these symptoms and to suffer breathing failure after eating shellfish, you will need to do rescue breathing and cardiac massage until you can get the person onto artificial respiration A comprehensive monitoring programme Is being carried out along the entire west coast of the North Island and regular sampling is occurring in other areas to take stock of any further drift south or east. The Ministry of Health will be updating this site as new information comes to hand.

New Zealand shellfish have been monitored for the presence of marine biotoxins since January 1993 when a widespread neurotoxic shellfish poisoning (NSP) event occured, resulting in 186 suspected cases being reported. The species of shellfish most affected by the toxins are bivalves such as mussels, pipis, tuatua, cockles, oysters and toheroa.

Kina and Paua should also not be eaten.

Crayfish and Crab are safe to harvest but must be gutted prior to cooking.

"Cooking crayfish and crab can spread the toxin from the gut to the flesh so people must be ensure they remove the gut prior to cooking, Mr Sim said.

Mr Sim said while the Wellington area is affected and the bloom has been detected in Cook Strait so far no positive samples have been detected in the Marlborough Sounds.

For further information please contact: Annie Coughlan, Media Advisor, ph: 04-496-2483 or 025-277-5411 Internet address: http://www.moh.govt.nz/media.html or visit the shellfish website: www.moh.govt.nz/shellfish.html For local information on the Wellington issue phone Stephen Palmer, local medical officer of health, ph: 04 570 0044

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