Oysters in Oregon and Washington cause paralysis in people: FDA asks not to eat them - ForumDaily
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Oysters in Oregon and Washington cause paralysis in people: FDA asks not to eat them

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned consumers about the dangers of eating oysters from Oregon and Washington states. They may be contaminated with toxins that cause paralysis, reports AP.

Clams on the Beach

Photo: iStock.com/:southlandp

At least 31 people have fallen ill in Oregon today, according to state health officials. Here's what you need to know about recommendations federal agency.

A warning

Consumers should avoid oysters and clams harvested from Netarts and Tillamook Bays in northern Oregon since May 28, and shellfish, caught in areas around Willapa Bay in southern Washington since May 26. They may contain high levels of a paralytic toxin produced by algae.

On the subject: Cucumbers are being recalled in 14 states because they may be contaminated with salmonella.

Shellfish harvested from these areas during this period were shipped beyond Oregon and Washington to Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, and New York. The FDA has warned restaurants and retailers about the danger.

What is known

Elevated levels of toxins were first detected in shellfish along the Oregon coast on May 17.

Since then, an outbreak of paralytic oyster poisoning in the region has sickened at least 31 people, according to the Oregon Health Authority. The agency asked people who have collected or eaten Oregon oysters since May 13 to fill out a survey. It is intended to help investigators determine the cause of the outbreak and the number of people sick.

Oregon officials have closed their entire coastline to mussel, shellfish and shellfish harvesting. Agriculture officials have closed three bays, including those listed in the FDA advisory, to commercial oyster harvesting.

Authorities in neighboring Washington have also closed the state's Pacific coast to shellfish harvesting, including mussels, scallops and oysters.

What is paralytic shellfish poisoning?

Paralytic shellfish poisoning, or PSP, is caused by saxitoxin, a natural toxin produced by algae. Saxitoxin is a neurotoxin, meaning it can damage nerve tissue.

People who eat shellfish contaminated with saxitoxins usually begin to feel ill within 30 to 60 minutes. Symptoms include numbness of the mouth and lips, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath and abnormal heartbeat (in severe cases).

There is no antidote to PSP. Treatment of severe cases may require the use of ventilators to aid breathing.

Authorities warn that cooking or freezing contaminated shellfish does not kill the toxins or make them safe to eat.

Why did this happen

A very large algae bloom has led to unprecedented levels of PSP toxins along the Oregon coast, and they have accumulated in shellfish.

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The factors that cause harmful algal blooms are not fully understood. They are believed to arise both as a result of natural processes and as a result of human activity.

Such high levels of paralytic shellfish poison have not been recorded in Oregon for several decades. However, PSP has existed in regional waters for centuries.

The fishery closure could deal a blow to fisheries in the Pacific Northwest.

The shellfish industry contributes $270 million annually to the region's economy. It employs about 3200 people.

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