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Health advisory over fish poisoning

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (ESU) of the Ministry of Health and Department of Environment and Natural Resources would like to inform the public of cases of Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP) in the community.

So far this year, ESU has received 4 reports of the poisoning, compared to 2017, when there was only 1 report and 2016, when 20 persons were affected by symptoms associated with ciguatera poisoning.

Ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP) causes vomiting, diarrhea and neurological issues such as tingling sensations and reversal of cold and hot sensations (that is hot items “feel” cold and cold items “feel” hot).

Ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP) is caused by toxins (or poisonous substances) from microscopic marine plants, that build-up in large predatory fish. The fish are not affected by the toxin and the handling of the fish (i.e. how it was stored post-catch, or filleted) does not affect the presence of the toxin.

CFP does not change the appearance, taste or smell of a fish and it is not affected by cooking or freezing. There is no simple detection test.

However, when the poisoned fish is eaten, it can cause symptoms in persons that include vomiting, diarrhea, itching, tingling, nerve pain, and the reversal of hot and cold sensations.

The reversal of hot and cold sensations is a telltale sign of CFP because it is absent in other types of fish-related food poisoning. Vomiting and diarrhoea may be severe, moderate or absent. Additional symptoms include nausea, vertigo, joint and muscle pain, weakness, and numbness or burning in the mouth. The poisoning, however, is not fatal.

Symptoms may begin as little as one hour after consuming toxic fish and can persist for an extended period of time. CFP is unpleasant, but most people that are affected recover fully over time.

The fish identified in the outbreaks to date are large amberjacks, large yellow jacks (larger than 20lbs), barracuda and grey snapper.

ESU and the DENR are collaborating to investigate reports of the poisoning and are handling any reports of fish causing these symptoms.

If you or someone you know has experienced or may have experienced the symptoms listed above, please contact your physician. Your physician will contact the Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit by calling 332-8932 or emailing jdwilson@gov.bm. Prompt reporting of CFP makes it easier to track down the source and can help prevent further cases.

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