USA – Alaska has among the nation’s highest rates of paralytic shellfish poisoning, but reported incidents are declining


Over the last decade, Alaska has reported fewer cases of a serious condition caused by consuming contaminated shellfish than in previous years.

But health officials say Alaskans who self-harvest shellfish should still be aware of the risks of paralytic shellfish poisoning.

Katherine Newell, an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who is assigned to Alaska’s Division of Public Health, helped put together a new state report tracking cases of PSP in Alaska between 1993 and 2021.

There have been 132 reports of the poisoning in Alaska during that time, including five fatal cases. About 25% of those cases occurred in or near Kodiak, 20% were in Juneau and 14% occurred in Ketchikan, the report found.

The condition, also known as PSP, is a foodborne illness caused by neurotoxins known as saxitoxins, which are produced by harmful algal blooms that shellfish sometimes take into their systems while filter feeding, Newell explained.

When a human ingests the contaminated shellfish, it can be “pretty serious, and sometimes fatal,” Newell said. “It’s a reportable condition in Alaska because of how serious it is.”

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