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'Red tide' again infects shellfish in North Kitsap

"Clam, mussel and oyster loving residents of North Kitsap will have to avoid eating shellfish collected from local beaches until further notice. Within the last few days, shellfish samples collected from local beaches have recently shown dangerous levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poison toxins. All species of shellfish along the eastern half of Kitsap County may be unsafe to eat due to the PSP or what is more commonly known as red tide. The entire eastern half of Kitsap County, from the Pierce County line north to Point No Point, including Bainbridge Island and Blake Island is closed to harvesting. Affected areas include Port Orchard, Bremerton, Poulsbo and Kingston. It's pretty normal to have PSP closures start occurring this time of year, said Shawn Ultican, Environmental Health Specialist. But it's unusual that we have to close so many areas at once. The Kitsap County Health District will be posting warning signs at most public beach access points in the closed areas, but residents should be careful, as officials will not be able to post every stretch of the beach. People should definitely not assume that an area is safe for shellfish harvesting just because there's no warning sign, Ultican says. The microscopic plankton that produces the PSP toxin are more common in the spring, summer or fall when sunny days and warmer temperatures can cause unpredictably rapid growth, or plankton bloom. Filter feeding shellfish then consume the plankton and concentrate the toxin in their tissues. PSP toxin can't be destroyed by any method of preparation or cooking, and shellfish carrying the toxin don't look any different than those unaffected. Symptoms of PSP toxin exposure typically occur within one hour after eating the contaminated shellfish. Typical symptoms may include tingling and numbness of the lips and tongue, nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness and difficulty in breathing. The BKCHD is urging people to contact a doctor immediately if such symptoms are experienced after eating shellfish. There is no antidote for the PSP toxin and most extreme cases are fatal. The Health District will continue to monitor the shellfish at Kitsap County beaches, and notify the public if the levels of PSP toxin become unsafe in other areas. For current shellfish closures within Kitsap County, call the local hotline at 1(800)2BE-WELL. For more information regarding shellfish harvesting in Kitsap County, contact Shawn Ultican at the Bremerton-Kitsap County District's Environmental Health Division at (360) 692-3611. For closures in other areas of Washington, call the State Red Tide Hotline at 1(800)562-5632, or check the state Department of Health homepage at http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/biotoxin.htm. "

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