What is the issue?
Pseudonitzschia delicatissima is a diatom algae commonly found in coastal waters at low levels. Elevated algae levels were detected in the first week of February 2016. When stressed, the algae can release a toxin known as domoic acid. When this toxin is present at high levels, it is possible for this toxin to accumulate in shellfish at a level that may be potentially harmful to human health.
Who is at risk?
Should the presence of the toxin be identified in seafood samples, anyone who has consumed shellfish from the Gippsland Lakes from the beginning of February 2016 may be at risk. Vulnerable groups include young children, pregnant women and the elderly.
Symptoms and transmission
If patients have consumed mussels or shellfish containing the domoic acid toxin from the Gippsland Lakes, they may experience gastroenteritis-like symptoms (usually within 24 hrs of consumption) such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal cramps.
In severe cases, neurological symptoms may develop (usually within 48 hrs of consumption) such as headaches, confusion, short term memory loss (amnesic shellfish poisoning), respiratory difficulties and seizures.
As a precautionary measure, consumers are advised not to eat shellfish from the Gippsland Lakes until further notice. There is no specific antidote and symptoms should be managed with supportive therapy until the toxin passes through the patients system.
If you believe one of your patients may have amnesic shellfish poisoning, please notify the Department of Health and Human Services on 1300 761 874 after organising appropriate clinical care.
For specialist advice from a medical toxicologist contact the Victorian Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.
- Department of Health and Human ServicesGastroenteritis
Algae in the Gippsland Lakes Community Information
Gastroenteritis - Better Health Channel