Red Tide (Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning) Safety


This information is courtesy of the MaineCDC and the Maine Department of Marine Resources:

Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), also called "red tide", is a marine biotoxin that is associated with certain types of algae blooms in coastal waters. Bivalve shellfish eat and filter the toxic algae, and the concentrations of the toxin can cause serious illness or death if eaten by humans.

Consumers concerned about obtaining safe shellfish should buy from certified shellfish dealers whose operations undergo rigorous public health screening and auditing.

Symptoms of PSP include tingling of face and neck areas, headaches, nausea, and muscle weakness. In extreme cases, these symptoms can lead to respiratory failure. Symptoms usually occur within two hours of eating contaminated shellfish. Anyone who has eaten shellfish and has these symptoms should seek immediate medical care.

The Maine DMR monitors shellfish beds closely and closes areas to shellfish harvesting if levels of PSP are noted to be high. Because of this well developed testing and closure system, coupled with effective law enforcement, Maine has a long history of successfully preventing consumers from being exposed to shellfish from areas closed because of red tide.

The Department of Marine Resources Public Health Division routinely test shellfish along Maine's entire coast to test for harmful red tide levels. For current closure information, visit the Department of Marine Resources Red Tide Closure page.

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