FDA Warns of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning From Oregon

Caden Pearson
By Caden Pearson
June 11, 2024Health
FDA Warns of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning From Oregon
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in White Oak, Md., on June 5, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned consumers to avoid eating specific shellfish due to potential contamination with toxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP).

The warning, issued on June 5, applies to restaurants and retailers as well. It warns them not to serve or sell oysters and bay clams from Netarts Bay and Tillamook Bay in Oregon that were harvested on or after May 28.

State fish and wildlife authorities reported historically high levels of marine biotoxin paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in razor and bay clams along the entire Oregon coast that same day.

The FDA’s warning specifically includes all shellfish species from certain growing areas in Willapa Bay, Washington, namely Stony Point (harvested between May 26 and May 30), Bay Center (harvested between May 29 and May 30), and Bruceport (harvested between May 29 and May 30).

These potentially contaminated shellfish have been distributed to Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New York, Oregon, and Washington.

Consuming these shellfish could result in serious illness, and it is strongly recommended that they be disposed of to ensure safety, according to the FDA’s notice.

The NSW Food Authority has advised the public Botany Bay shellfish are unfit for human consumption. (Fred Tanneau/AFP/Getty Images)

Shellfish can become contaminated with naturally-occuring toxins occasionally found in the water they inhabit, leading to potential illness. These toxins are often produced by marine algae, which are also known as phytoplankton.

When shellfish consume algae, the toxins accumulate in their flesh. This contamination typically occurs following the blooms of toxic algal species, but it can also happen when the toxic algal concentrations are low.

One recognized syndrome resulting from consuming contaminated shellfish is paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). PSP is caused by neurotoxins known as saxitoxins or paralytic shellfish toxins (PSTs), produced by certain species of algae that are a food source for the shellfish. The retention time of these toxins varies among shellfish species. Some species cleanse themselves of toxins quickly, while others do so more slowly, extending the period during which they pose a health risk to humans.

Importantly, the shellfish may appear, smell, and taste normal. Furthermore, these toxins cannot be neutralized by cooking or freezing.

Neurotoxin Symptoms

The FDA has advised anyone who might be experiencing symptoms of illness to see a health care provider.

Most people who get paralytic shellfish poisoning will start showing symptoms within 30 minutes of eating contaminated seafood. The symptoms can be quite varied, and include a tingling sensation around the lips, mouth, and tongue. This can progress to more severe symptoms like numbness in the arms and legs, a “pins and needles” feeling, weakness, loss of muscle coordination, a sensation of floating, nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness, vomiting, and headaches.

In the worst cases of significant exposure, it can lead to respiratory paralysis. If someone has PSP, the main medical treatments are respiratory support and fluid therapy.

Patients who make it through the first 24 hours have a good chance of a full recovery with no lasting effects, according to the FDA. But in fatal cases, death is usually due to asphyxiation. PSP can be deadly, especially for children.

On May 30, the Oregon Department of Agriculture notified the FDA about a recall of certain oysters and bay clams due to the detection of elevated levels of paralytic shellfish toxins. On the same day, the Washington State Department of Health notified the FDA that they were recalling all shellfish species harvested from specific areas in Willapa Bay, Washington.

According to state health officials, 20 people in Oregon have experienced illness symptoms so far.

All 20 people who fell ill reported recreationally harvesting mussels on May 25 and 26 at Short Beach, near Oceanside in Tillamook County, and Hug Point near Seaside in Clatsop County. Some of the cases have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

On May 23, the state fish, wildlife, and agriculture authorities closed a stretch of Oregon Coast to mussel harvesting from Seal Rock State Park north to Cape Lookout due to high levels of PSP. This was later extended from Seal Rock State Park north to the Washington border.

Emilio DeBess, an epidemiologist at the Oregon Public Health Division’s Acute and Communicable Disease Prevention Section, advised private individuals who may have harvested the mollusks to dispose of them and see a doctor immediately.

The Hawaiʻi State Department of Health issued its own advisory on June 5 after shipments of the contaminated shellfish were sent there.

From The Epoch Times

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