Epidemiologists Confirm First Case Of PSP In 2015

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.

Jeremy Hsieh

Jeremy Hsieh is the deputy managing editor of the KTOO newsroom in Juneau. He’s a podcast fiend who’s worked in journalism since high school as a reporter, editor and television producer. He ran Gavel Alaska for 360 North from 2011 to 2016, and is big on experimenting with novel tools and mediums (including the occasional animated gif) to tell stories and demystify the news. Jeremy’s an East Coast transplant who moved to Juneau in 2008.

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