Susan Buckley, RN, Director, Public Health
Ira Singh, MPH, Deputy Director
Donald I. Baird, MD, Health Officer

Division of Environmental Health


Date Released: 5/10/2010
Subject: 2010 Annual Mussel Quarantine
Contact: Harriet Hill, Registered Environmental Health Specialist
Phone: (707) 445-6215

Annual Quarantine of Sport Harvested Mussels in Effect Through October 31

The Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services reminds the public that the annual sport-harvested mussel quarantine order has been issued by the State of California Department of Public Health. The quarantine began May 1 and applies to all mussel species harvested by the public anywhere on the California coast. This includes all bays, harbors and estuaries.

The mussel quarantine is intended to prevent people from ingesting toxins produced by shellfish that can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and domoic acid poisoning (DAP). There is no known antidote to the toxins and cooking does not reliably destroy them. The vast majority of PSP illnesses in humans occur between spring and fall.

PSP affects the nervous system, producing a tingling around the mouth and fingertips within a few minutes to a few hours after eating the toxic shellfish. This is typically followed by disturbed balance, lack of coordination, slurred speech and difficulty swallowing. In severe cases, paralysis and death can occur.

DAP symptoms can occur within 30 minutes to 24 hours of eating toxic seafood. Mild cases may include vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, headache and dizziness. These symptoms disappear completely within several days. Severe cases can result in breathing problems, confusion, memory loss, cardiovascular instability, seizures, coma and death.

Commercially harvested shellfish are not included in the quarantine. All commercial shellfish harvesters in California are subject to strict requirements to ensure that the oysters, clams and mussels entering the marketplace are free of these naturally occurring toxins.

Consumers of sport-harvested clams or scallops are warned to eat only the white meat of these shellfish.


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