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Alaskan dies due to paralytic shellfish poisoning

Generic photo (Source: Live 5 News)
Generic photo (Source: Live 5 News)(WHSV)
Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 3:13 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Department of Health and Social Services has announced a recent death in the state was caused by paralytic shellfish toxin exposure.

Paralytic shellfish poisoning can be fatal and is caused by recreationally gathered shellfish that have been contaminated with high levels of algal toxins. Cooking or freezing shellfish does not destroy the toxins in the shellfish, DHSS said.

The poisoning death happened after a person in Dutch Harbor consumed blue mussels and snails on the Fourth of July. Even though the fish were cooked, the person suffered poisoning symptoms including tingling, numbness and vomiting.

DHSS said the person was flown to an Anchorage hospital after being transferred to a local clinic but died in Anchorage. Two other people also consumed limited amounts of the shellfish but did not suffer from poisoning.

This is the fifth fatality in the state due to PSP and the first one in Alaska since 2010. DHSS said there have been more than 100 reported cases of shellfish in the state since 1993.

Communities along beaches like Craig, Chignik Lagoon, Hydaburg, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Kasaan, Juneau, Metlakatla and Unalaska have seen high levels of the toxin in butter clams and blue mussels.

DHSS warns that there are “no beaches that are certified or designated as ‘safe’ beaches for shellfish harvesting in Alaska.”

Recreationally harvested shellfish can be contaminated with the toxin, but commercially harvested shellfish are tested regularly to monitor for the toxin and are safe to consume, DHSS said.

There is no antitoxin for shellfish poisoning and people who develop symptoms of PSP should seek medical attention, DHSS advises.

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