Beware: Contaminated Seafood Can Kill You From Paralytic Poisoning Or PSP

Beware: Contaminated Seafood Can Kill You From Paralytic Poisoning Or PSP

One person died after consuming blue mussels and snails harvested on the beach of Dutch Harbor (Alaska) on July 4th. The cause: Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP).

PSP is caused by eating shellfish (such as mussels, cockles, clams, scallops, oysters, crabs, and lobsters) contaminated with potent neurotoxins called saxitoxins.

The saxitoxins they are not destroyed by freezing, salting, or by cooking the contaminated product.

The main action of the paralyzing poison is in the central nervous system and peripheral with effects on respiration and vasomotor centers.

Symptoms of poisoning

According to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionPoisoning symptoms generally begin within 2 hours of eating seafood contaminated but they can start between 15 minutes and 10 hours after lunch.

  • Numbness or tingling in the face, arms, and legs.
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Loss of coordination
  • A floating sensation

In cases of severe poisoning: muscular paralysis and respiratory failure, which can cause death in 2 to 25 hours.

The birds can also get sick eating algae, drinking contaminated water, or eating contaminated marine fish or shellfish.

The Most states at risk for marine biotoxins have monitoring programs to close the harvest when toxins are present in shellfish. They have occurred in the Gulf of Mexico and on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States.

Besides the saxitoxin there are other harmful algal bloom toxins (HAB) such as brevetoxins, azaspiracides, ciguatoxins, domoic acid, okadic acid, and dinophysistoxins. These biotoxins can also make people sick.


Before collecting shellfish, look for warnings about harmful algal blooms, they may be posted on fishing, by beach managers or local health authorities.

Do not eat fish or shellfish sold as bait. Bait products do not need to meet the same food safety standards as shellfish for human consumption.


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