Public health alert extended on East Coast shellfish

Shellfish

A public health alert has been updated on shellfish from the east coast of Tasmania following the detection of unsafe levels of a paralytic shellfish toxin in shellfish in Georges Bay at St Helens.

Director of Public Health Dr Roscoe Taylor said the presence of a paralytic shellfish toxin arising from a naturally-occurring algal bloom in the area was recognised last week in mussels from the Spring Bay area near Maria Island.

“The toxin has now been confirmed in in samples from several shellfish farms at St Helens,” Dr Taylor said.

“These areas had already been closed to harvesting last week as a precaution.”

Shellfish farms in Little Swanport, Great Swanport and Great Oyster Bay, where low levels of the algae have been detected, have also been closed as a precaution pending results of further water and shellfish testing.

“I strongly stress people should not harvest or eat any wild shellfish from these affected areas as it could result in potentially fatal paralytic shellfish poisoning,” Dr Taylor warned.

“High levels of paralytic shellfish toxins can be fatal in extreme cases and children are more susceptible than adults.”

Dr Taylor said poisoning symptoms included tingling in the mouth and extremities, pins and needles, unsteadiness on the feet, weakness of the arms or legs and nausea.

“Anyone experiencing these symptoms after eating seafood from or near the affected area should seek immediate medical attention.”

Dr Taylor also warned cooking or freezing does not destroy the toxins.

It is likely to take some weeks for the toxins to clear from the shellfish and further testing is needed before affected areas re-open.

Information about shellfish warnings is available at http://www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/peh/tsqap

Consumers can find out which products are affected on the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website.