Friday, March 9, 2012

Poison Fish

Eating tropical reef fish that have fed on toxic algae triggers Ciguetera poisoning. These toxins reach particularly high concentrations in large predatory tropical reef fish. Barracuda are commonly associated with ciguatoxin poisoning. Eating fish caught between latitude 35° N and 35° S can cause ciguatera poisoning. Other potential dangerous fish include (note that this list is not all inclusive):

          Red Snapper
          Sea Bass


 These fish are typically caught by sport fishermen on reefs in Hawaii, Guam and other South Pacific islands, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Because the toxin is heat-stable, it is unaffected by cooking.


Ciguatoxin usually causes symptoms within a few minutes to 30 hours after eating infected or tainted(contaminated) fish. Occasionally it may take up to 6 hours. 

·      Common nonspecific symptoms include feeling:
o   Nausea
o   Diarrhea
o   Cramps
o   Excessive Sweating
o   Headache
o   Muscle Aches
o   Vomiting

·      Other Symptoms

o   Burning or Pins & Needles Sensation
o   Weakness
o   Itching
o   Dizziness
o   Nightmares
o   Hallucinations
o   Tingling of lips, tongue, and, throat.

·      Other Serious Symptoms

o   Numbness
o   Confusion
o   Collapse
o   Coma

Ciguatera poisoning is rarely fatal. Symptoms usually clear in 1 to 4 weeks. Most people recover within a few days or weeks with supportive treatment. Ongoing disability has occasionally occurred.


Diagnosis is generally based on symptoms and a history of recently eating seafood. Laboratory testing for the specific toxin is generally not necessary. Leftover fish or shellfish can be tested for the presence of the toxin more easily. Identification of the specific toxin is not usually necessary for treating patients because there is no specific treatment.


Persons with weakened immune systems or liver problems should not eat raw seafood. They are at higher risk of Vibrio infection.

Keep seafood on ice or refrigerated at less than 38° F (3.3° C) to prevent spoilage.

Keep fresh tuna, mackerel, grouper, and mahi mahi refrigerated to prevent development of histamine.
Cooking spoiled or toxic seafood will not keep you safe. These toxins are not destroyed by cooking.


Do not eat barracuda.

Red Algal Bloom
Check with local health officials before collecting shellfish. Look for Health Department advisories
about algal blooms, dinoflagellate growth or "red tide" conditions that may be posted at fishing supply stores.

Do not eat finfish or shellfish sold as bait. Bait products do not meet the same food safety regulations as seafood for human consumption.


If you have eaten seafood and develop problems or symptoms that seem unusual for you.

ExitCare® Patient Information ©2011 ExitCare, LLC

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