One dead, 17 hospitalised after eating ‘red tide’ mussels

The Star, 13 Feb 2013


KOTA KINABALU: A man died and 17 others were hospitalised after consuming mussels and bivalves infected with red tide toxins, in the most serious case of paralystic shellfish poisoning (PSP) this season.

Sabah Fisheries Department director Rayner Stuel Galid said his department received a report from the State Health Department about the latest incident.

The victims had all purchased cockles and bivalves from street peddlers at the Inanam market, Galid said in a statement on Wednesday.

He said the red tide warning was still in place and urged the public to avoid consuming all types of marine shellfish or bivalves.

These include sea oysters, mussels, cockles, bivalves and any type of clam-like seafood.

Beginning late November, the department detected a high amount of PSP toxins in samples of bivalves obtained from the west coast through its red tide monitoring programme.

In January, two teenagers died from consuming poisonous shellfish.

Among the initial symptoms include tingling lips and tongue, a sensation of the ‘pins and needles’ on the skin, followed by loss of control of arms and legs, and difficulty breathing that could result in death.


Many still eating clams from red tide-hit areas

The Star, 23 Jan 2013

KOTA KINABALU: Despite numerous warnings against the dreaded red tide off Sabah’s west coast, there are still people selling and consuming clams and other sea products from the area.

Two people have reportedly died due to poisoning caused by toxic clams while there have also been cases of mild poisoning in several areas.

Many sellers are claiming their clams come from the state’s safer east coast and, as such, are not infected by the harmful algal blooms.

These blooms, or HABs, occur when colonies of algae — ocean plants that live in the sea — grow out of control producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals and birds.

The human illnesses caused by HABs, though rare, can be debilitating or even fatal.

Some people here are said to have kept their clams in clean water for at least two days, believing the deadly algae would die, before consuming them.

Fisheries department quality assurance division head Bonyface Jintony said they were conducting operations to stop people from selling these clams, shellfish and other sea products.

“The department is working closely with the Health Ministry to monitor this problem.

“Action will be taken against those found selling shellfish or clams that put the public health at risk.

“People should be aware of the red tide as the department has already issued an alert,” said Bonyface, adding that the toxin in the clams would remain even if they were soaked in fresh water for several days.

He added that recent tests showed the cell algae per litre density was at 100,000 units.

“Anything above 7,000 cell algae per litre is considered critical,” said Bonyface.


Shellfish alert as red tide hits Sabah waters

The Star, 3 Jan 2013

KOTA KINABALU: People are warned against eating shellfish or bivalves obtained from the sea following a red tide alert in Sabah waters.

Sabah Fisheries Department director Rayner Stuel said these included oysters, mussels, cockles and any type of clam-like seafood.

“A year-long Red Tide Monitoring programme conducted by the department with the state Health Department has detected the presence of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins in samples of bivalves from waters off certain parts of Sabah’s west coast,” he said.

High densities of the PSP-causative organism was found in samples of sea water from Kuala Penyu, Kota Kinabalu, including Gaya Island, Sepanggar Bay and Likas Bay as well as in the Papar, Putatan, and Tuaran districts.

Rayner said the numbers became so large and dense that they released a brownish red colour to the sea at times.

The types of sea life considered safe to eat include all types of prawns and crabs, coral fish and predatory fish.


Rosnah: Refrain from consuming shellfish

7 Jan 2013

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Shirin advised people in Sabah to refrain from consuming shellfish and bivalve shellfish in the wake of the red tide. They are urged to seek immediate treatment at the nearest hospital should they experience symptoms such as numbness, dizziness, vomiting and breathing difficulties, particularly after consuming cockles. Tests on shellfish collected from areas affected with red tide revealed high concentrations of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) toxins, which may be fatal in extreme cases. State Health Director Dr. Christina Rundi confirmed on Saturday that two out of six people who were down with poisoning due to red tide after consuming shellfish have died. Christina said that all six patients were found to have consumed cockles collected from Sepanggar waters. According to hospital sources two patients, aged 14 and 9 suffered critical symptoms of severe anaphylactic shock and were diagnosed with PSP. Both passed away on January 2nd and January 4th respectively. Sabah Fisheries Director Rayner Stuel Galid explained that samples of seawater taken off Sepanggar showed a toxin reading of 6,000 Mouse Units (MUs). “The level is evidently very high because a reading of 400 MU is already toxic and dangerous,” he said. The red tide phenomenon has also been detected in waters off Papar, Putatan, Kota Kinabalu and Tuaran as well as Sitompok Lake in Kuala Penyu. Rayner echoed Rosnah’s call in urging the public to abstain from eating cockles, shellfish and small fishes. “Deep sea fishes, squids and crabs can be consumed but they must be cleaned thoroughly and the gills must be discarded,” he said.

Source: Insight Sabah