What is Ciguatera Fish Poisoning?
Barracuda and Grouper May Be Toxic
Eating barracuda, grouper and other big, tropical predatory reef fish can result in a type of food poisoning known as ciguatera fish poisoning. The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that fish of these types may contain toxins that are difficult to detect prior to eating.
The toxins that the fish carry are actually produced by Gambierdiscus toxicus, a marine algae, and cause illness when accidentally ingested by people.
Symptoms of Ciguatera Fish Poisoning
Ciguatera poisoning may have symptoms similar to other types of poisoning, which include vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. In addition, it may also be accompanied by neurological symptoms. Victims may feel weakness, difficulty in walking and tooth pain. Some also experience a reverse temperature sensation, in which case they touch hot things but feel cold and cold things feel hot. These symptoms may last for months.
Ciguatera has no cure, however, it is possible to treat the symptoms and they usually disappear after a few days or weeks. In some circumstances, people may retain the symptoms for years.
In 2010 and 2011, there was a significant rise in ciguatera fish poisoning incidents in New York City. The outbreak was traced to the barracuda or grouper sold in the local market. Prior to this time, this type of poisoning rarely happens in the city.
From August 2010 to July 2011, the reports listed 6 outbreaks and one case of ciguatera fish poisoning, which affected 28 people. One victim was a swimmer who takes 2-mile swims everyday. After the food poisoning incident, he had difficulty walking for several months.
The fish that carries the ciguatoxins is not affected by the ciguatoxins. The fish don’t look sick, taste or smell different compared to non-toxic fish. So, there is no way to know or test if a fish carries the toxins prior to selling or eating them.
A way to prevent the possibility of ciguatera poisoning is to know which fishing areas are contaminated with the toxins. It would be helpful as well to report positive diagnosis of patients immediately to the proper public health agencies.
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