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3:15 PM Friday July  08, 2011

MEDIA RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday 8 July 2011

                                                  Public Health Warning on Toxic Sea Slugs

(Monday 15 August 2011-this advice is current for all Auckland beaches)

With school holidays coming up this month, the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) is repeating timely public health advice to beach-going families to keep each other, their children, and their pets safe from toxic sea slugs on Auckland beaches.

This reminder comes after Auckland Council positively identified two toxic sea slugs on rocks at Matiatia Bay on Waiheke Island last week.

ARPHS Medical Officer of Health Dr Simon Baker advises continued caution to beach goers to avoid touching or handling sea slugs at all beaches across the Auckland region.

“The small size of sea slugs means it’s important for beach-goers to be mindful of little children and what they may pick up at the beach.”

“We want people to enjoy our beautiful coastline but keep in mind this potential on-going risk to children and pets.”

Dr Baker has issued the following public health advice in respect of toxic sea slugs:

  • Children and pets need to be supervised on all Auckland beaches, not just those bordering the Hauraki Gulf.
  • Adults, children and pets should not eat anything found washed up on any beach.
  • Parents need to be aware of where their children are swimming or playing, and what they are handling.
  • Sea slugs on any beach must be avoided.
If you find one along the Auckland coastline, mark the spot, leave well alone, phone Auckland Council on (09) 301 0101and ask for an environmental health officer, who will collect the slug safely.

Auckland Council marine scientist, Dr Jarrod Walker, says he is not expecting the high density of toxic sea slugs that occurred at Narrow Neck and Cheltenham beaches during the 2009-2010 season. However, Auckland Council is continuing its monitoring of these beaches.

Additional Information from the Auckland Regional Public Health Service
This species of sea slug Pleurobranchaea maculata carries tetrodotoxin (TTX) – a potent and dangerous neurotoxin - in both its body and external mucus coating.

First Aid Response for Tetrodotoxin Poisoning
Initial symptoms following tetrodotoxin (TTX) poisoning can include numbness around the mouth, tingling, pricking of the skin and nausea. In severe cases, paralysis rapidly advances with respiratory problems first appearing as difficult or laboured breathing. Reduced blood pressure, fixed dilated pupils and widespread paralysis follows, which may progress to breathing muscle paralysis and an inability to breathe. An irregular heartbeat may also occur.

Due to the rapid onset of life threatening effects, quick and appropriate initial management will be crucial. Prompt and sustained pulmonary resuscitation (PR) – mouth-to-mouth breathing - is essential. However, because of the risk of further poisoning, the resuscitator should wash thoroughly around the patient’s mouth area first. Chest compressions are not needed unless a pulse is absent. Although vital signs may suggest the patient is either unconscious or dead, they will remain fully aware of their circumstances and can hear the conversations of those providing support. Mouth-tomouth must continue until the ambulance arrives. Ambulance staff can stabilise the patient and provide more advanced PR support.

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITORS

For photos of the toxic sea slug Pleurobranchea maculata, please email Jessie Sampson at
jessies@adhb.govt.nz
 
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Suzanne Stickley
Communications Adviser-Auckland Council
Cell: 021 142 001

Vienna Richards
Communications Manager-Auckland Regional Public Health Service
Cell: 021 938431

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