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Toxic shellfish warning revised

20 December 2013

Toxic shellfish warning revised

Regular shellfish monitoring along the coast has seen Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) levels fall in part of the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

“There is now no PSP concern from Whakatane Heads eastwards. However, the current warning remains in place from Tairua to Whakatane Heads,” says Medical Officer of Health, Dr Jim Miller.

The Medical Officer of Health continues to advise against gathering or eating shellfish from Tairua on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, south to Waihi Beach and along the Bay of Plenty coast to Whakatane Heads in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. The warning includes Tairua Harbour as well as Tauranga Harbour, Maketu and Waihi estuaries, Matakana and Motiti Islands, and all other islands along this 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). PSP is caused by natural toxins that are produced by algal blooms and accumulate in shellfish that feed on the algae. Shellfish containing toxic levels of paralytic shellfish poison 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 cooking or eating.

Eating shellfish affected by paralytic shellfish 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.

“Paralytic shellfish poisoning can be a very serious illness. Please help keep you and your family safe these summer holidays and don’t collect or eat shellfish from the affected areas,” says Dr Miller.

Monitoring of toxin levels will continue along the coast and any changes in advice will be communicated accordingly. The public can obtain up-to-date information on the toxic shellfish health warning through these channels:
• Phone: 0800 221 555, option 1
• Website: www.ttophs.govt.nz/health_warnings
• Twitter: www.twitter.com/ttophs
• Email alerts for subscribers: www.ttophs.govt.nz/alert

ENDS

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