First PSP case of 2019 reported on Alaska Peninsula

Published: Jul. 24, 2019 at 4:48 PM AKDT
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The Alaska Department of Health and Social (DHSS) services says that the first suspect case of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in Alaska in 2019 was reported on the Alaska Peninsula.

PSP is a toxin that, if ingested, can cause severe illness or death.

The case was reported in the Perryville area after a collector consumed shellfish and developed symptoms consistent with PSP. Symptoms usually include a tingling of the lips and tongue, which may begin within minutes of eating toxic shellfish or may take several hours to develop. Eventually, the tingling spreads to fingers and toes, causing paralysis. If the muscles of the chest and abdomen become paralyzed, the patient may die within a matter of hours. There is no treatment, other than offering mechanical ventilation.

Officials say that in the past month, PSP has been detected in Chignik Lagoon, Chignik Bay, King Cove and Sand Point, suggesting a high risk on the Alaska Peninsula.

DHSS reminds shellfish gatherers that toxin levels have been high this summer in many parts of the state. One warning sign is to look for the "red tide," a marine event causing rust-colored water.

But health officials say that there is no surefire way of determining the presence of PSP, and that even clear water can contain the toxin. Cleaning, cooking, or freezing shellfish does not remove the toxin.

Commercial shellfish is considered safe to eat.

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