FDA Issues Warning on Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning Risk in Oregon

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    by Wesley P. Finch
    Published: June 11, 2024 (2 weeks ago)

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an urgent warning to the public regarding the potential for paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) from consuming shellfish harvested along the Oregon coast. This alert comes after elevated levels of dangerous biotoxins were detected in shellfish samples from the region.

    Elevated Biotoxin Levels

    Recent testing conducted by the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) revealed increased concentrations of saxitoxins in shellfish, a group of toxins responsible for PSP. These toxins are produced by certain types of harmful algal blooms (HABs) that can proliferate in marine environments under specific conditions. The presence of these toxins in shellfish poses serious health risks to consumers.

    Health Risks of PSP

    Paralytic shellfish poisoning is a severe neurotoxic condition that can occur after ingesting shellfish contaminated with saxitoxins. Symptoms typically manifest within minutes to hours of consumption and may include:

    • Tingling and numbness around the lips, tongue, and fingertips
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Muscle weakness
    • Difficulty swallowing and breathing
    • Paralysis in severe cases

    In extreme instances, PSP can be fatal if respiratory muscles become paralyzed.

    Affected Areas and Recommendations

    The FDA and ODA have specifically identified the areas along the Oregon coast where elevated toxin levels have been found. They strongly advise the public to avoid consuming shellfish from these regions until further notice. The affected areas include:

    • Clatsop County
    • Tillamook County
    • Lincoln County
    • Coos County

    Commercial shellfish operations in these areas have been notified and are working closely with state and federal agencies to ensure public safety.

    Safety Measures and Ongoing Monitoring

    The FDA and ODA are actively monitoring the situation and conducting regular testing of shellfish to track toxin levels. They are also collaborating with local health departments to disseminate information and updates to the public. Consumers are urged to stay informed through official channels and adhere to guidelines to prevent PSP.

    What to Do if Exposed

    Individuals who believe they may have consumed contaminated shellfish and are experiencing symptoms of PSP should seek immediate medical attention. Healthcare providers are advised to be vigilant for signs of PSP in patients presenting with relevant symptoms and to report cases to local health authorities promptly.

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