Seasonal blooms of toxic marine algae are causing shellfish bed closures in Washington. But this isn’t your usual “red tide” algae.
Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning is about as much fun as it sounds. It doesn’t cause paralysis or death like some red tide algae do. But eating DSP-contaminated shellfish can cause vomiting, chills and other flu-like symptoms.
Last year three people in Washington got sick after eating infected mussels harvested near Sequim on the Olympic Peninsula. They were the first documented cases of DSP in the country.
This last week three bays in Puget Sound were closed to recreational shellfish harvest. This is the first time any of these bays have been closed because of unsafe DSP toxin levels.
Scientists have found the algae in Puget Sound for decades but they’re not exactly sure what’s making them more toxic now.
Cooking infected shellfish doesn’t get rid of this toxin. So the state has an extensive monitoring system to prevent people from harvesting infected shellfish.
Frank Cox handles marine biotoxins for the Washington Department of Health.
Cox: “It gets us very concerned because in France there are outbreaks where hundreds of people get sick with this, so we definitely need to be monitoring for it.”
Right now the DOH sends shellfish samples out of state to be tested for the DSP toxin. They’ve purchased equipment to do the tests locally in the future. Oregon does not test for DSP.
There have been no reported cases of Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning in people in the northwest this season.
Copyright 2012 KUOW