Suspected Ciguatera Poisoning Detected in Fish Consumers

Monday, August 21st, 2017

The Ministry of Health informs the public that suspected fish poisoning (Ciguatera poisoning) was detected in persons that had eaten fish bought from a fish vendor in Ladyville, Belize District. Further investigation into these cases has linked and identified that the fish consumed was barracuda.

Consumers are warned that ciguatera poisoning is normally seen in predatory fish, mainly barracudas. However, other fish such as the coral trout, red snapper, donu, parrot fish, grouper, Spanish mackerel, red emperor, wrasse, reef cod, sturgeon fish, trevally and moray eel may also cause ciguatera poisoning. It is key to note that this toxin does not affect the appearance, odor or taste of the fish; and freezing or cooking the contaminated fish will not prevent the poisoning. Anyone who consumes fish contaminated with the ciguatera toxin will become ill.

Individuals who consume any fish that contains the toxin can experience many symptoms including 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. The gastrointestinal or stomach symptoms normally appear within 24 hours of exposure and those of the nervous system can appear one to two days later.

It is important to note that most symptoms disappear after a few days and complete recovery happens after a few weeks.

To prevent ciguatera poisoning, consumers are advised to:
1. Avoid eating the head, roe or fish egg, liver, or other organs of the fish as it is where the highest level of toxin is present.
2. Eat other types of fish not listed above.
3. Avoid eating large sea fish. Limit the weight of a fish to less than 11 pounds as ciguatera fish poisoning occurs more frequently in larger fish.
4. Report any suspected fish poisoning to the local Public Health Officer so necessary action can be taken to prevent it.

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