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Memory-robbing toxin found in Northern California shellfish from two counties

Sacramento Bee - 11/5/2022

The consumption of shellfish harvested from two Northern California counties could come with permanent short-term memory loss, according to the state Department of Public Health.

The department warned on Thursday not to eat sport-harvested razor clams from Del Norte County or mussels from Humboldt County.

The shellfish from both counties have been found to harbor domoic acid, a byproduct of toxic algae blooms, according to a department news release.

The acid can cause “amnesiac shellfish poisoning,” the effects of which can range from flu-like symptoms to short-term memory loss or even death, according to the release.

The toxin was identified in razor clams from Crescent Beach in Crescent City in October, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The clams sequester the toxin in their bodies much longer than other shellfish.

Following the Health Department’s announcement, the Department of Fish and Wildlife closed the recreational razor clam fishery in Del Norte County.

The public health warning doesn’t apply to shellfish sold by commercial harvesters or dealers, who must frequently test their products for toxins.

Algal blooms on the Southern California coast have been poisoning sea lions with the toxin this year, sickening and killing them.

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