According to National Epidemiologist, Harmony Massiah CFP is not uncommon in tropical and sub-tropical areas and is mainly associated with the consumption of big coral reef fish like snapper, bass and perch that have accumulated ciguatoxin in the body.
Symptoms of ciguatoxin poisoning include itchiness, diarrhoea, numbness of the hands and lips, weakness and abdominal pain that last for 30 minutes to three hours after eating a contaminated fish, the Health Ministry said.
It further said other symptoms are peri-oral paresthesia (tingling/pins and needle sensation around the mouth), palpitations and vomiting. The ministry further said death is rare but may occur in severe cases due to dehydration, respiratory failure or cardiovascular shock during the initial illness period.
“The cases up until the week of June 6 were sporadic, but within a three-week span we had approximately eight confirmed cases,” Massiah explained.
She further said other suspected cases are still being investigated, adding that all persons are in stable condition and should recover without long-term health effects.
In a recent media release, Massiah cautioned that larger fish will have higher amounts of the toxin and contaminated fish cannot be identified by its appearance nor can the toxin be destroyed by cooking.
She further advised that the following measures must be taken to prevent ciguatera fish poisoning:
• Reduce consumption of coral reef fish, like barracuda, snapper, bass, perch and hind
• When eating coral reef fish, avoid consuming alcohol, peanuts or beans as they may magnify the effect of the poison.
• Seek medical treatment immediately should symptoms of ciguatoxin fish poisoning appear
• Do not buy fish when the source is doubtful.
• Avoid eating the head, skin, intestines and roe of coral reef fish, which usually have a higher concentration of toxins and is associated with greater symptom severity.
Persons who may have consumed coral reef fish this year and are exhibiting any of the aforementioned symptoms should, call the Public Health Unit at 468-2274 or 468-2279