Three people affected by shellfish poisoning after eating shellfish in a closed area off the North Coast. (Wikimedia photo)

Three people from recovering from shellfish poisoning

Butter clams harvested in November 2018 could cause paralytic shellfish poisoning

Be wary of butter clams harvested from Dundas Island, health authorities are warning.

Less than two weeks ago, three people from the Prince Rupert area had eaten shellfish that sent them to the hospital.

“They were in the hospital with neurological symptoms, with numbness and tingling and just general symptoms,” said Dr. Rakel Kling, a medical health officer with Northern Health.

After these three cases, the public health team was called in. On March 20, the First Nations Health Authority and Northern Health released an advisory that butter clams harvested during November 2018 from Dundas Island should be avoided.

Symptoms can include weakness and limb paralysis, but Dr. Kling warns they can be more even more serious, leading to problems breathing and even death in some cases.

“It’s really important to check online which areas are open and closed for shellfish. This shellfish was harvested from a closed area,” she said.

The three people who had eaten the shellfish are “doing well and recovering at home,” Dr. Kling said.

Investigation into the cases is ongoing, in collaboration with the BC Centre for Disease Control and First Nations communities.

READ MORE: DFO announces shellfish harvesting closure off northern B.C.

Paralytic shellfish poisoning occurs from ingesting bivalve shellfish, such as clams, that contain toxins produced by plankton during harmful algal blooms.

Cooking or freezing does not destroy the toxins, which can be retained in clams for up to two years.

The poisoning can cause severe and life-threatening neurological effects.

Symptoms include tingling and numbness spreading from the lips and mouth to the face and extremities, as well as dizziness, arm and leg weakness, paralysis, difficulty breathing, and death.

People who experience any of these symptoms after consuming clams should visit a doctor immediately, the health authorities advised.

Visit the First Nations Health Authority website for more information and precautions.

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