Local News

Health officials: algae bloom increasing in Southeast

The state is warning Southeast residents not to harvest shellfish because of a large bloom of algae in Southeast Alaska waters coupled with warm summertime weather.

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Department of Health and Social Services spokesman Greg Wilkinson says people need to be extra cautious because of ocean water conditions. “It’s just that right now, this monitoring that’s being done by the folks through the University of Alaska Southeast have shown higher than normal levels of the algae that produces Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning,” Wilkinson said. “So where we always advise against personal harvesting of shellfish, right now its going to be an even more dangerous time.”

Water samples from around Southeast are showing increasing levels of two types of algae. “They did some along Etolin Island, they did some on the west side of Prince of Wales Island,” Wilkinson said. “The samples they took around Juneau were also very high, both for Alexandrium, which causes Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning and Dinophysis which produces what’s called a diarrhetic shellfish poisoning, which gives you really bad diarrhea, neither of which you would really wanna get,” he said.

Toxins in the algae can accumulate in clams, mussels, oysters, geoduck clams, scallops and crab guts. Health officials recored eight reported cases of shellfish poisoning last year and four people hospitalized by shellfish poisioning. PSP can paralyze and kill its victims. Early warning signs are tingling of lips and tongue.
The state says commercially harvested shellfish, sold in stores, is tested and considered safe to eat.
Any suspected cases of PSP should be reported to the state Section of Epidemiology at 269-8000 or 1-800-478-0084.

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