Thursday, July 18, 2024

Suspected Ciguatera Poisoning Detected in Fish Consumers


The Ministry of Health would like to alert the public that suspected fish poisoning (Ciguatera poisoning) was detected in ten persons that had eaten Barracuda Fish bought from a fish vendor at the Vernon Street Fish Market in Belize City. Further investigation into these cases has linked and identified the fish poisoning with the consumption of 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, 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 that 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 ranging from: tingling and numbness in fingers and 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 symptoms usually disappear after a few days but complete recovery happens after a few weeks.

To prevent ciguatera poisoning, consumers can:

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. Report any suspected fish poisoning to the local Public Health Officer so necessary action can be taken to prevent it.

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