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April 29-May 6, 2009

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Letters to the Editor

Houston Chronicled

MY NEIGHBOR, mentor, advisor, literary ideal, father/grandfather figure--a man I've looked up to for the 19 years I've known him. And a master craftsman as a writer with the sensibilities to transport his reader and to transcend the medium.

I was fairly devastated to learn of Jim Houston's death yesterday when my wife, Mary Kay, opened Metro Santa Cruz ("Elegy to James D. Houston," Cover Story, April 22). And I feel a substantial regret for not having connected with him more than our bumps on the road, passing one another on his recent "constitutionals" between his house and the beach. Nothing beyond what Jim called "the stuff of life" could have been more worthy of my pursuit.

He is greatly missed.

Reach out and say the things you want to say to the ones you want to say them to.

 R. Bryan Love,
Santa Cruz


The Pelicans Aren't Alone

YOU SAY that there are no cases of paralytic seafood poisoning (PSP) in humans ("Flight Risk," News&Views, April 22), but that's not precise.

What you should be saying is that there are no reported cases of PSP. Mild cases are likely to go unreported, for example. Even when beds are quarantined, people who poach shellfish out of season (and perhaps in this economy, more will take those risks?) are unlikely to confess to a doctor if they show up at a clinic with less than life-threatening symptoms.

For ASP (the poisoning from domoic acid) you'll find almost no cases reported internationally, despite the foraging of unregulated and infected shellfish beds in many countries' coastal areas.

I imagine this is because nearly no medical personnel, even in the U.S. and Canada, where beds are monitored and PSP/ASP were defined, understand what the symptoms of harmful algae bloom (HAB) poisoning are.

I probably suffered from ASP two years ago after eating some California mussels, about a week or two before the California beds got shut down (at the earliest date in the state's history as I remember). I feel it was very likely due to domoic acid poisoning.

But because it couldn't be diagnosed within 24 hours because it was not suspected as a diagnosis, the only way to diagnose my case may be a brain autopsy--and I'm not quite ready to donate my brain to science yet!

My doctors at home in Boston did not identify a HAB poisoning from the symptoms--gastro-intestinal distress, disorientation, cognitive difficulties--because there is no public health education around these symptoms at all.

It's only after months of recovery, and looking for the only diagnosis that fit my symptoms (permanent anterograde amnesia/short-term memory loss without loss of intellectual capacity being the major lasting outcome), that we realized that it was probably the seafood I ate the night before I fell ill that caused my symptoms and their "sequelae" (after-effects).

We need to push for public health education to doctors, not just to shellfish bed shut-downs, to really understand the human impacts of HABs.

But if you look at the funding for HAB research, it's coming almost entirely from the shellfish fisheries industry. These are not the people who are going to fund public health education on shellfish consumption risks, when that might lead to a possible consumer panic.

Perhaps we need to make sure this education comes through the press?

Shava Nerad,
Somerville, Mass.


Last week we misstated the date of the 'Growing Food and Fuel' event at the Reel Work Film Festival. It takes place Saturday, May 2, at the Live Oak Grange.

Also, in the story 'Family Values' (News&Views, April 15), we reported that Eileen Bresler had her hours cut by the Santa Cruz County Mental Health Department. Bresler in fact works at Santa Cruz Community Counseling Center, which is partially funded by Santa Cruz County. We regret the errors.

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