Toxin prompts shellfish warning

A public health warning has been issued not to take or eat shellfish from Port Underwood, in Marlborough.

Nelson Marlborough Medical officer of health Dr Ed Kiddle said routine testing of shellfish in Port Underwood waters had shown the presence of a toxin that can cause diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP).

Symptoms of the toxin are diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Kiddle said acute symptoms usually occurred within one hour but could take up to 12 hours after eating shellfish and were of short duration.

DSP group toxins were produced by a variety of algae, he said.

He warned people not to eat kina, mussels, pipi, tuatua, oysters and cockles harvested from affected areas since October 20.

“Scallops, paua, crab and crayfish may still be eaten if the gut was completely removed prior to cooking. If the gut was not removed its contents could contaminate the meat during the cooking process,” Kiddle said. “Cooking affected shellfish does not remove the toxin.”

Fish such as snapper, cod, gurnard and terakihi were not affected by the toxic algae and were still safe to eat.

The affected area is all of inner Port Underwood west of a line drawn from Robertson Point.

Public Health was monitoring the situation but people should not take shellfish from this area, Kiddle said.

Public Health usually required two clear consecutive test results before the ban could be lifted.

In February this year a five-week restriction on eating shellfish from the Queen Charlotte Sound and Tory Channel was rolled out.

Toxin-producing algae contaminated shellfish and if eaten could have resulted in paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) which in severe cases can cause respiratory failure.

Marine farmers were banned from shellfish harvesting during the period until levels of the algae declined.

More information about the safety of shellfish can be found from the on-call health protection officer on 03 520 9999. People who become ill after eating shellfish should get medical attention.

 

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