Travel News September 06, 2019
Toxic Algae Has Contaminated Some Shellfish In Washington And If Eaten Can Cause Paralysis And Even Death
Toxic algae blooms have been occurring all over the U.S. this summer, and many Washington beaches are among the affected locations. Compounds known as biotoxins are produced by the aquatic plant, which are later stored in the flesh of shellfish who eat it. Harvesting of shellfish has been temporarily banned at certain beaches because humans can become paralyzed and even die upon consuming affected sea creatures. Here’s everything you need to know:
Biotoxin-producing algae is naturally occurring and doesn't pose a threat at normal levels. When blooms occur, however, the algae becomes a major food source for shellfish.
Since the fish do not die upon consuming the algae, biotoxin concentrations in their tissues continue to rise until the outbreak subsides.
Molluscan shellfish such as clams, mussels, oysters, geoduck, and scallops are most commonly affected.
Other species such as moon snails, gastropods, sea cucumbers, and crabs may also contain biotoxic traces.
Raw or cooked, contaminated shellfish are never safe to eat. Heat does not kill the toxins, and you can't tell if a fish is infected by looking at it.
Symptoms of PSP can set in anywhere from minutes to hours after consuming infected shellfish, and include tingling of the lips and tongue.
The sensation may spread to the extremities before progressing into paralysis and difficulty breathing. Some people also experience nausea and/or a sense of floating.
If enough toxin is consumed, muscles of the abdomen and chest can become paralyzed. This may lead to suffocation and death as soon as 30 minutes later.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for Paralytic Shellfish Poison. In severe cases, patients are placed on life support to induce respiration until the toxin has run its course. Survivors typically go on to make a full recovery.
PSP is not to be confused with Amnesic or Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning, which are caused by other types of biotoxins in the northwest.
The former is most prevalent in razor clams, while the latter can be found in a variety of marine organisms.
You can check the status of a beach on the Washington State Department of Health
There are also handouts on how to safely gather shellfish and prevent illness from biotoxins.
Visit the Washington State Department of Health’s
website or Facebook page to learn more.
Did you know about this horrifying phenomenon? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.