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Officials Warn More Than 20 Sickened by Mussels Collected on North Oregon Coast

Published 5/29/24 at 3:25 a.m.
By Andre' Hagestedt, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

More Than 20 Sickened by Mussels Collected on North Oregon Coast

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – More than 20 people have become sick after eating mussels that were harvested from the north Oregon coast, found in a stretch from Hug Point near Cannon Beach down through Short Beach next to Oceanside. They were sickened by a naturally occurring biotoxin called paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) that has been found in mussels all the way from Seal Rock up through Washington coast border. (Above: Seal Rock, Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

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Just as Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) closed off that area to mussel harvesting, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) officials discovered the illnesses.

Now Oregon officials are urging you to throw out all mussels that were acquired in that region: on most of the northern half of the coast, from roughly Waldport up through Astoria.

“Some of the cases have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported,” said OHA in a report.

Clatsop County (which includes Cannon Beach, Seaside, Gearhart, Warrenton and Astoria) sent out a health alert as well.

“Throw away any mussels picked since Saturday from Washington border to Seal Rock State Recreation Site south of Newport, OR.,” said Clatsop County in its alert.

That was also a statement made by OHA.


Oceanside

On May 23, Oregon coast officials closed off mussel harvesting from Seal Rock through Cape Lookout (which is between Pacific City and Oceanside.) Test of the shellfish had shown levels of PSP were above the safety limit. Just a few days later, tests called for the closure of the rest of the north coast.

Mussel harvesting remains safe from about Waldport southward through the California border. That area includes Yachats, Florence, Reedsport, Coos Bay, Bandon, Port Orford, Gold Beach and Brookings.

OHA said anyone experiencing any of the symptoms of PSP should seek medical attention immediately, if they have also consumed mussels from the Oregon coast.

These symptoms include numbness of the mouth and lips, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and in severe cases, shortness of breath or irregular heartbeat. Much more serious cases with large doses of toxin can include poor muscle control, clumsiness or slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, loose or floppy limbs, mental status changes, and respiratory failure.

You can also call the Oregon Poison Center at 800-222-1222.

OHA epidemiologist Emilio DeBess said do not give these mussels to pets, either.

“We have two messages: If you have any mussels gathered since Saturday from beaches within the area of coastline that ODFW and ODA closed to harvesting - that you are preparing for a meal or keeping in the freezer for a later time - throw them out now and do not feed them to pets,” he said. “There is no antidote for PSP – treatment involves supportive care and, if necessary, respiratory support.”

PSP can be deadly, especially for children. Appropriate medical care can lessen the risk of death.

Do not attempt to cook them: you cannot get rid of the poison that way. You also cannot taste the biotoxin.

“PSP is a foodborne illness caused by saxitoxins produced by marine algae and caused by eating shellfish contaminated with the naturally occurring biotoxin, including scallops, mussels, clams, oysters and cockles, as well as some fish and crabs,” DeBess said.

The symptoms often show up within 30 to 60 minutes after a person eats them.

Those more than 20 individuals who got sick acquired the mussels at either Hug Point or Short Beach over the weekend.


ODFW

OHA said it expects more people will show up with the toxin.

Razor clamming and crabbing are unaffected by PSP at this time, although there is another biotoxin (domoic acid) that has closed off razor clamming from Port Orford to the south.

Bay clams and crabs are still safe and available for harvesting along the entire Oregon coast.

Commercial harvesting of mussels in Oregon are not affected, meaning all seafood found in local stores is safe.

Also see:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Oregon Department of Agriculture Recreational Shellfish Biotoxin Closure:

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Shellfish and Biotoxins
:

Oregon Health Authority Fish and Shellfish Consumption Resources:

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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