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Oregon officials urge residents discard mussels harvested near part of WA border

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(The Center Square) – A paralytic shellfish poisoning outbreak that made over 20 people sick caused the Oregon Health Authority to urge those who harvested mussels from part of Oregon’s coast since Saturday to throw them away.

The Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division wants people experiencing symptoms of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) to immediately contact a healthcare provider. It also said people can get advice about the matter by calling the Oregon Poison Center at 800-222-1222, according to a press release from the organization.

Common PSP symptoms include “numbness of the mouth and lips, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and in severe cases, shortness of breath or irregular heartbeat,” the release said.

Those who reported PSP harvested mussels recreationally last weekend at Short Beach near Oceanside in Tillamook County, and Hug Point; and near Seaside in Clatsop County.

No deaths have been reported yet, according to the release, though some PSP victims were hospitalized.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) closed the Oregon Coast to mussel harvesting from Seal Rock State Park north to Cape Lookout on May 23. The state did this due to high PSP levels.

Two days later, the state extended its mussel harvest closure from Seal Rock State Park north to the Washington border. “We have two messages: If you have any mussels gathered since Saturday from beaches within the area of coastline that ODFW and ODA closed to harvesting – that you are preparing for a meal or keeping in the freezer for a later time – throw them out now and do not feed them to pets,” Emilio DeBess, epidemiologist at the Oregon Public Health Division’s Acute and Communicable Disease Prevention Section, the release said. “And if you have eaten any of these mussels and are feeling ill, see a doctor right away.”

DeBess also said these recommendations apply only to mussels harvested by private individuals. This does not include ones commercially harvested and bought at a grocery store or restaurant.

“PSP is a foodborne illness caused by saxitoxins produced by marine algae and caused by eating shellfish contaminated with the naturally occurring biotoxin, including scallops, mussels, clams, oysters, and cockles, as well as some fish and crabs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” the release said. “There is no antidote for PSP – treatment involves supportive care and, if necessary, respiratory support.”

PSP is the most severe and common form of shellfish poisoning. A global phenomenon, it happens most in temperate waters of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America.

Signs of PSP typically appear 30 to 60 minutes after someone eats toxic shellfish. These include “numbness and tingling of the face, lips, tongue, arms and legs,” the release said.

Additionally, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, and nausea are sometimes symptoms.

Severe cases may also see symptoms like “poor muscle control, clumsiness or slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, loose or floppy limbs, mental status changes, and respiratory failure,” the release said.

“PSP can be deadly, especially for children,” the release said. “Appropriate medical care can lessen the risk of death.”

Avoiding potentially contaminated shellfish is the easiest way to prevent shellfish poisoning, especially in areas during or shortly after algal blooms.

Freezing or cooking marine shellfish will not kill their toxins, and contaminated shellfish might not taste different than uncontaminated shellfish.

People should avoid harvesting and eating seafood from beaches with biotoxin closures, the release said.

“Treatment for paralytic shellfish poisoning is symptomatic and supportive,” the release said. “Severe cases of paralytic shellfish poisoning might require mechanical ventilation.”