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October 5, 1999

Red Tide Toxins Force Closure of a Portion of Laguna Madre to Shellfish Harvesting

PORT MANSFIELD, TX (SafetyAlerts) - The Texas Department of Health (TDH) is closing the lower portion of Laguna Madre from Port Mansfield south to the Rio Grande to the taking of oysters, clams and mussels due to the presence of the algae Gymnodinium breve. The area includes South Bay.

The algae causes red tide and can release toxins that can accumulate in the tissue of oysters, clams and mussels. Consumption of these contaminated shellfish can cause neurotoxic shellfish poisoning, or NSP, in humans. Cooking does not remove the toxins.

Though NSP is not known to be fatal to humans, symptoms include nausea, dizziness, dilated pupils, tingling of the extremities and reversal of hot and cold sensations. Persons in the affected areas could experience respiratory, eye, nose and throat irritations caused by airborne particles and toxins contained in the ocean spray.

Other seafood such as shrimp, crabs and fish do not accumulate the toxins and are safe to eat. Oysters, clams and mussels legally available in markets and restaurants also should be safe.

TDH will continue to monitor algae levels and will test samples of oysters, clams and mussels before determining when the bay can be reopened to harvesting.

This algae can cause fish kills, and health officials say fish that are found dead or dying should not be eaten.

Laguna Madre is located between Padre Island and the Texas mainland.


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