DPHSS: 6 fall ill from suspected fish poisoning

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Six people became ill after eating what public health officials suspect was ciguatera poisoning from eating poisonous fish, according to a release this morning from the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

Any reef fish can cause ciguatera poisoning, but it’s normally seen in predatory fish and it commonly occurs in tropical and subtropical areas, particularly in the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea.

Barracudas, groupers, red snappers, moray eels, amber-jacks, parrot fish, hog fish, sturgeon fish, king fish, coral trout, and sea bass are the most commonly affected.

The toxin in those does not affect the appearance, odor or taste of the fish, and freezing or cooking contaminated fish will not prevent the poisoning.

DPHSS warns that anyone who consumes fish contaminated with the ciguatera toxin will become ill and no anti-toxin is available to treat the condition.

Individuals who consume any fish that contains the toxin can experience many symptoms:  tingling and numbness in fingers, toes, around lips, tongue, mouth and throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and or abdominal cramps, joint pains, headache and difficulty breathing.

Stomach symptoms normally appear within 24 hours of eating the fish. However, effects on the nervous system can appear one to two days later.

Symptoms usually disappear after a few days, but complete recovery takes a few weeks.

Individuals should consult with their physicians to evaluate other potential causes of their symptoms and may also wish to consult when their symptoms are more severe.

To prevent ciguatera poisoning, consumers should:

  1. Avoid eating the head, roe or fish egg, liver or other organs of the fishes as it is where the highest level of toxin is present.
  2. Eat other types of fish.
  3. Avoid eating large sea fish. Limit the weight of a fish to less than 11 pounds as ciguatera fish poisoning occurs more frequently when larger fish are eaten.
  4. Individuals should be counseled that consumption of fish, alcohol, caffeine, and nuts within six months of poisoning may trigger a recurrence of symptoms and elimination of these foods from their diet is prudent. They should also understand that future attacks of ciguatera fish poisoning might be worse than the initial illness. Ciguatera is not an infectious disease, and individuals do not develop immunity to the toxin.

Report any suspected fish poisoning to DPHSS at 735-7221.

For more information, go to: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/fish-poisoning-ciguatera-scombroid.

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