New Zealand Press Association
Death warning on shellfish toxin
26 AUGUST 2000
Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxin levels in greenlipped mussels taken from between Maunganui bluff and Tauroa Pt this week were the highest ever recorded in New Zealand, according to Northland Health.
"At this level a small meal of shellfish could cause significant illness and in severe cases respiratory failure and death," warned Tony Beauchamp, Northland Health's shellfish co-ordinator.
The disease is moving south, with a ban on shellfish gathering now in place for the entire west coast of Northland (bar a tiny part of the Kaipara Harbour), down to Hokio Beach, in the Horowhenua area.
Mr Beauchamp said the only greenlipped mussel sample taken from between Maunganui Bluff and Tauroa Pt. Northland, this week had shown toxin levels at more than 50 times the regulatory closure limit.
"This site was less toxic than other sites a fortnight ago, so even higher toxin levels are possible in areas between Maunganui Bluff and Tauroa Pt. This is the highest level of paralytic shellfish toxins ever recorded in New Zealand."
Mr Beauchamp said despite repeated pleas for people not to harvest West Coast shellfish, Northland Health continued to see and hear of people doing so.
"...They are taking considerable risks."
He said the symptoms of PSP included numbness and tingling around the mouth, face or extremities, difficulty swallowing and breathing, dizziness, double vision and paralysis.
He urged anyone becoming ill after eating shellfish to contact their doctor and reiterated the ban applied to all shellfish. -NZPA