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Ventura County Focus | Countywide /

Annual Quarantine of Mussels Imposed

April 24, 1998|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT

Mussels found along Ventura County's coastline can contain hazardous levels of toxin, so health officials have again issued a quarantine on eating any shellfish gathered by recreational harvesters.

The annual quarantine was announced Thursday by the Public Health Department and remains in effect until Oct. 31.

The quarantine applies to all species of mussels taken by the public from any bay, harbor or estuary on the California coast, officials said. Commercially harvested mussels are not included in the quarantine, officials said.

Consumers of sport-harvested clams and scallops are advised to eat only the white meat, discarding dark-colored organs, or viscera, before cooking.

Toxin found in mussels can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning, which affects the central nervous system by producing tingling around the mouth and fingertips within a few minutes to a few hours of consumption, officials said.

The tingling is followed by dizziness, lack of muscle coordination, slurred speech and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, paralysis and death by asphyxiation can occur, officials said.

There is no antidote, and cooking the shellfish will not destroy the toxin, officials said. Immediate medical care is critical and has proven effective in managing symptoms.

People with further questions can call the state's Shellfish Information Hotline at (800) 553-4133.

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