BELLINGHAM—Unsafe levels of diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP) biotoxin have been detected in molluscan shellfish on beaches in northern Whatcom County. As a result, the Washington State Department of Health has closed recreational shellfish harvest on beaches from Point Whitehorn north to the Canadian border.
Molluscan shellfish include clams, mussels, oysters, and scallops. Mussels usually contain the highest toxin concentration. PSP and other naturally occurring biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing. Crab meat is not affected by PSP, but “crab butter” and crab entrails can harbor biotoxins so they should be discarded. Shellfish sold in restaurants and markets have been tested before distribution and are safe to eat.
Algae that contain the toxins cannot be seen, and must be detected by laboratory testing. Therefore, always check the DOH website at http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/biotoxin.htm or call the DOH Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632 before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Washington State.
Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) biotoixin levels that prompted an earlier harvest closure have recently dropped. However, DSP biotoxin levels have risen rapidly over the past two weeks. DSP intoxication causes nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, with diarrhea being the most commonly reported symptom. The most recent cases of DSP intoxication in Washington occurred in 2011. If you experience symptoms of intoxication after consuming shellfish seek immediate medical attention.
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