State epidemiologists have confirmed the first case of paralytic shellfish poisoning in Alaska this year.
The case originated with recreationally harvested clams on a private beach near Ketchikan. The victim had typical, but not severe, symptoms within half an hour of eating the clams on April 24.
Leftover clams were tested for the PSP toxin and came back with levels more than 13 times over the Food and Drug Administration’s threshold for commercial shellfish.
“The real scary part of course is that death can result in a really short period of time,” Department of Health spokeswoman Dawnell Smith said.
Early paralytic shellfish poisoning symptoms include lip and tongue tingling. That can progress to fingers and toes, losing control of your arms and legs, and difficulty breathing. It can be fatal within a few hours.
Commercially harvested shellfish are tested and safe to eat. There’s no convenient way to know if recreationally harvested shellfish are safe.
“You know, every, every year this comes up. Somebody gets sick, or begins to feel ill and goes and reports it,” Smith said.
State epidemiologists’ last confirmed case of paralytic shellfish poisoning was in December.