Toxic shellfish wreaking havoc

By Kiri Gillespie

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The number of people poisoned by toxic shellfish collected from Mount Maunganui and Papamoa shores has risen to 13, with a local man and woman being admitted to Tauranga Hospital's intensive care unit.

The 60-year-old man and 42-year-old woman were in a serious but stable condition in ICU yesterday. They were admitted on Sunday following others who sought hospital treatment after eating toxic shellfish.

A 64-year-old woman was discharged from hospital yesterday after spending five days receiving treatment for symptoms.

Medical health officer Dr Neil de Wet said of the eight people affected in Tauranga, three were treated in the hospital's emergency department and did not require admission.

Another three people were hospitalised in Rotorua after eating shellfish collected from Mount Maunganui and Papamoa beaches.

Another patient was treated in Rotorua but not admitted and another case remained unconfirmed, Dr de Wet said.

In Whakatane, a person was treated in the hospital's emergency department and also did not need admission.

Dr de Wet said there were no community events that appeared to link any of the cases.

"In most instances these are people who have gone out and collected shellfish themselves and might have shared the shellfish with a family group or a couple of friends," Dr de Wet said.

Since August 2012 high levels of paralytic shellfish poison have been found in shellfish along a significant stretch of coastline.

A health warning is already in place advising against the collection of shellfish from Tairua on the Coromandel Peninsula, along the Bay of Plenty coast to Whakatane.

Dr de Wet said recent tests of affected shellfish in the Mount Maunganui and Papamoa areas showed elevated toxin levels "way beyond the threshold" of what should be safely consumed.

Symptoms ranged from tingling around the mouth and face, tingling of the skin on their arms and hands, mild weakness when walking, and diarrhoea and vomiting. In severe cases, people can suffer paralysis and respiratory failure.

Maungatapu (Opopoti) Marae spokeswoman Wakata Kingi said the sea was their cupboard for food resources and iwi members had been eating the shellfish since the warning came into effect without any problems.

"We've actually had some pipis. We actually had some from the weekend. I just wonder if our stomachs are more immune."

Ms Kingi said the marae hosted a wedding and unveiling at the weekend where they had collected shellfish from Tauranga Harbour. No one who attended had reported to the iwi any illness.

The health warning applied to all bi-valve shellfish such as mussels, pipi, tuatua, cockles, oysters, scallops as well as kina (sea urchin) and cat's-eyes.

The warning included Tauranga Harbour, Maketu and Waihi estuaries, Matakana and Motiti islands, and all other inshore islands along the coastline.

For up to date information on health warnings in Bay of Plenty go to www.ttophs.govt.nz and click on health warnings.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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