VICTORIA, B.C- Illnesses linked to shellfish consumption have prompted Island Health to issue an advisory.

According to the agency, the illnesses were reported in people who had self-harvested shellfish in the southern section of Vancouver Island from closed areas this month. They’re asking people to be aware of shellfish closures during harvest season, and to not harvest from closed areas.

Toxic forms of algae often increase in ocean water in the summer with warming water temperatures,” read the agency’s warning.

“Concentrations of toxins can accumulate in filter-feeding shellfish. Shellfish that can be affected include: clams, oysters, whole scallops, mussels, cockles, geoducks, whelks, periwinkles, or the innards of crab (toxin can be in flesh if the crab is boiled before innards are removed). “

Shellfish that have accumulated toxins in their body will not appear ill, or contaminated, and cooking will not make them safe from those toxins. Disease from bacteria may be reduced.

“When contaminated shellfish are consumed, illness can result,” read the advisory.

“Toxins, such as saxitoxin, can cause human illness including Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP).  Saxitoxin and PSP are a frequent cause for shellfish closures.”

Environmental testing conducted this June has shown high toxin levels in harvesting areas linked to the reports of illness.

“Symptoms of shellfish poisoning can occur within minutes and/or up to 24 hours after eating contaminated shellfish,” read the advisory.

“In mild cases, symptoms may include tingling, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, dizziness, muscle weakness, disorientation, memory loss, loss of coordination, or difficulty swallowing. These symptoms disappear within several days. In serious cases, seizures, unstable blood pressure, paralysis, difficulty breathing, coma or death may occur.”

The Poison Control Centre should be contacted at the first sign of symptoms at 1-800-567-8911.

Closure areas can be viewed via this link: http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/contamination/index-eng.html