State health officials confirm case of paralytic shellfish poisoning from Ketchikan-area clams


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KETCHIKAN, Alaska — Officials have confirmed a case of paralytic shellfish poisoning from a mixture of clams harvested from a beach north of Ketchikan.

Alaska Department of Health and Social Services officials confirmed Monday that a person became sick on the evening of April 24 from a mixture of horse, manilla and butter clams, reports he Ketchikan Daily News reports (

The leftover clams showed elevated levels of saxitoxin when tested at the state Department of Environmental Conservation Environmental Health Laboratory.

DHSS says the person had typical PSP symptoms within 30 minutes of eating the clams but was not severely affected by the disease.

Early signs of PSP include tingling of the lips and tongue, which can progress to tingling in the fingers and toes and loss of control of arms and legs. That can be followed by difficulty breathing and death within as little as two hours.

The clams were harvested from a private beach in the Loring area, said DHSS spokesman Jason Grenn.

All shellfish can contain PSP toxins, including clams, mussels, oysters, geoducks and scallops, according the DHSS release. Commercially harvested shellfish are tested and considered safe.

The release said crabmeat is not known to carry the toxin but that crab guts can contain unsafe levels of saxitoxin and should not be eaten.

Shellfish can contain PSP toxins even if water looks clear and no algae bloom is present, and it cannot be cooked, cleaned or frozen out of the shellfish, according to the DHSS.

Information from: Ketchikan (Alaska) Daily News,

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