Shellfish Poisonings Sicken Two Sitkans

Two Sitkans suffered symptoms of paralytic shellfish poisoning after eating clams harvested in the Starrigavan Creek area, not far from the community’s ferry terminal.

State health official Louisa Castrodale says a man and a woman had to seek treatment at a hospital emergency room after consuming the clams Oct. 18th.

She says they ate two clams each and developed typical symptoms for limited exposure.

toxic shellfish sign“Tingling around the mouth, and tingling in the fingers, the lips and things like that. Sometimes they can have gastrointestinal systems, like nausea and vomiting. This is just in general,” Castrodale says.

“Folks who are more severely affected can have muscle weakness or issues breathing.”

Both patients were treated and released.

The state Environmental Health Laboratory analyzed leftover clams. Testing found the PSP toxin.

You’ve heard this before. But Castrodale stresses there’s no way of knowing what shellfish is safe to eat.

“There’s no broad testing program for recreationally harvested shellfish. So you can’t tell if there is toxin or paralytic shellfish poising in shellfish by just looking at it,” she says.

Commercially sold shellfish are tested and only sold if they’re safe.

Clams, mussels, oysters, geoducks and scallops can contain the poison. Crabmeat is not known to hold the toxin, but crab guts can.

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Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.