Toxic shellfish warning for Bay of Plenty

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High levels of the paralytic shellfish poisoning toxin have been found in shellfish during routine monitoring in the Bay of Plenty.

"Levels of toxin found in shellfish are now well above our alert level and similar to levels around the time of the Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning outbreak in the Bay of Plenty late last year. With the better weather and holidays approaching, I would like to remind residents and visitors to the Bay of Plenty that the health warning remains in place," said Dr Jim Miller, medical officer of health for Toi Te Ora - Public Health Service.

"Paralytic shellfish poisoning can be a very serious illness, it can even be fatal. Please look out for the warning signs and don't collect or eat shellfish from the affected areas," he said.

Dr Miller strongly advised against the collection of shellfish from 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 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, snails and kina (sea urchin). Shellfish in the affected area should not be taken or eaten. Shellfish containing toxic levels of paralytic shellfish poison don't look or taste any different from shellfish that are safe to eat. Cooking or freezing the shellfish does not remove the toxin. Paua, crayfish and crabs can still be taken but as always, the gut should be removed before consuming.

Consumption of shellfish affected by paralytic shellfish toxin can cause numbness and tingling around the mouth, face, hands and feet; difficulty swallowing or breathing; dizziness; double vision; and in severe cases, paralysis and respiratory failure. These symptoms can start as soon as one to two hours after eating toxic shellfish and usually within 12 hours.

Anyone suffering illness after eating shellfish should seek urgent medical attention.

For up-to-date information on the toxic shellfish health warning call 0800 221 555 (option 1) or go to www.ttophs.govt.nz/health - warnings. Also look for signage at affected beaches.

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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