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Shellfish Poisoning Risk High in Auckland And Northland

Thursday 20 December 2012

Shellfish Poisoning Risk High in Auckland And Northland

The recent spate of hospitalisations in the Bay of Plenty due to paralytic shellfish poisoning, serves as a timely reminder of some key health issues to be aware of this summer. “We know this is the time of year that people want to be at the beach and in the sun,” says Dr Julia Peters, Clinical Director of the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, “we just want people to have the information they need to make choices for their own and their families’ good health.”

Shellfish poisoning
• Twenty people have been poisoned in the last week by eating shellfish collected in the Bay of Plenty. The very same danger exists in the Auckland and Northland region.
• The public are advised not to eat shellfish collected from Motunui (Taranaki) north to Maunganui Bluff (just north of Dargaville), including the Raglan, Kawhia, Manukau and Kaipara Harbours.
• Symptoms of toxic shellfish poisoning include numbness and tingling around the mouth, face, fingers and toes, difficulties in swallowing or breathing, dizziness, double vision and, in severe cases, paralysis and the stopping of breathing.
• If someone you know does eat shellfish and becomes sick, seek urgent medical attention, keep any shellfish you have left over, and contact your local Public Health Unit.
• For further information see the full media release:

Safe Swimming
• Check out the Auckland Council's Safeswim monitoring programme, which provides regular updates of water quality at beaches in the region:
• Wait at least 48 hours after heavy rainfall before swimming to avoid pollutants, and avoid swimming near stormwater drains or sewage outfall pipes.
• Avoid swimming in beach water that is cloudy or smells bad. If you can’t see your feet, don’t put your head under the water.
• Swim between the flags, and keep small children within arms reach.
• Learn to swim and make sure children, friends and whanau learn too. See for more advice.

Sun Safety
• New Zealand has the highest rates of melanoma and skin cancer in the world. Melanoma killed 326 people in 2009 and the trend is going upwards.
• Cover up well, use sunglasses and wear a hat to protect your face, ears, and neck and stay in full shade as much as possible between 11am and 4 pm.
• Use a sunscreen of SPF 30+ or higher at least 20 minutes before going into the sun and reapply every two hours and after swimming. Use sunscreen in addition to shade and clothing.
• For more information and resources see:

Food handling
• It is important to remember that there is an increased risk of food poisoning during the Christmas and BBQ season, due to the warmer weather. This means that good hand hygiene and careful food preparation is important.
• Keep in mind the four Cs of food safety: clean, cook, cover, chill. Wash and dry hands adequately before and after preparing food, cook food well (especially chicken) and ensure food is appropriately covered and chilled (included raw, prepared and leftover food).
• See further information here:

Alcohol safety
• Make nonalcoholic and low alcoholic options available at all times.
• Always have alcohol with food.
• Don’t feel pressured to drink or serve alcohol if you don’t want to.
• Make sure that alternative transport options are available for those who have had too many alcoholic drinks or don’t wish to drive.
• Find out how much alcohol you are drinking at:
• Find out how much you can safely drink at:
• Remember, the more you drink on one occasion, the greater your risk of injury or harm.

• During summer, Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) sometimes receives reports of swimmers suffering from rashes caused by stings from jellyfish on Auckland’s beaches.
• Generally, those affected have an itchy red rash in the swimwear-covered areas. The rash can vary from being mild (slight discomfort) to severe. It can last for a week or more. Calamine lotion, antihistamines and mild steroid creams may be helpful. Children are more at risk.
• If you or your family develop a rash like this, please contact ARPHS and let us know.
• For further information see the fact sheet

In summary, Dr Peters says “make health and safety an important part of your summer plans, take hand hygiene seriously and be sun, beach and alcohol safe.”


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