At least seven people have been poisoned by eating shellfish in the Bay of Plenty, prompting warnings from health officials.
In a 24 hour-period over the weekend, five people went to Rotorua Hospital with symptoms of toxic shellfish poisoning with a further two unrelated cases were seen at Tauranga Hospital.
All of those who had fallen ill had eaten shellfish collected from the coastline between Mount Maunganui and Papamoa. Their symptoms ranged from tingling round the mouth and face, tingling of the skin on their arms and hands, mild weakness when walking, and diarrhoea and vomiting.
As the summer holiday season approaches, Bay of Plenty and Lakes medical officer of health Dr Phil Shoemack said the health warning due to shellfish toxins along parts of the Coromandel and Bay of Plenty coastline was still in place.
"We have had reports that people have been continuing to eat shellfish and have felt unwell after doing so. The toxins can make people very ill and we strongly advise not consuming shellfish from any part of the affected area."
He said the recent cases at Rotorua and Tauranga hospitals were a stark reminder of the risk of ignoring the warning. Since August 2012 high levels of paralytic shellfish poison had 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 east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, south to Waihi Beach and along the Bay of Plenty coast to Whakatane Heads in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. The warning includes Tairua Harbour as well as Tauranga Harbour, Maketu and Waihi estuaries, Matakana and Motiti Islands, and all other inshore islands along this coastline.
The health warning applies to all bi-valve shellfish including mussels, pipi, tuatua, cockles, oysters, scallops as well as cat's-eyes and kina (sea urchin). Shellfish in the affected area should not be taken or consumed. Paua, crayfish and crabs can still be taken but, as always, the gut should be removed before cooking.
Consumption of shellfish affected by the paralytic shellfish toxin can cause numbness and tingling around the mouth, face or extremities; difficulty swallowing or breathing; dizziness; double vision; and in severe cases, paralysis and respiratory failure. These symptoms usually occur within 12 hours of a person consuming affected shellfish. Anyone suffering illness after eating shellfish should seek medical attention.
For up-to-date information on health warnings in Bay of Plenty go to www.ttophs.govt.nz and click on health warnings or call (0800) 221 555 and press 6 to speak to the on-call Health Protection Officer.