-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, Jan. 31 (HealthDay News) -- People who eat large,
tropical predatory reef fish such as barracuda and grouper may be
at risk for a form of food poisoning called ciguatera fish
poisoning, U.S. health officials reported Thursday.
Illness occurs when people eat fish that contain toxins produced
by a marine algae called
Gambierdiscus toxicus, according to the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.
Some symptoms of ciguatera poisoning -- such as nausea, vomiting
and diarrhea -- resemble other types of food poisoning. But
ciguatera poisoning also causes neurological symptoms such as
difficulty walking, weakness, tooth pain, and reverse temperature
sensation (for example, cold things feel hot and hot things feel
cold) that can persist for months, the CDC report said.
There's no cure for ciguatera but the symptoms can be treated
and usually go away in days or weeks. However, symptoms can last
for years in some people.
The CDC report said there was a significant increase in
ciguatera poisoning cases in New York City among people who ate
locally purchased barracuda or grouper in 2010 and 2011. Until
then, ciguatera poisoning was fairly uncommon in the city.
During the period August 2010 through July 2011, city health
officials received reports of six outbreaks and one single case of
ciguatera fish poisoning, involving a total of 28 people. One of
the patients was a physically active man who swam more than two
miles a day before his illness. After the start of symptoms, he had
trouble walking that lasted for several months, the CDC report
Ciguatoxins don't hurt the fish. And fish with the toxins don't
look sick and don't appear, smell or taste different than fish
without the toxins, the researchers noted.
Currently, there is no practical way to test fish for the toxins
before they're sold. So prevention efforts depend on knowing which
fishing areas have fish that might contain the toxins, along with
accurate diagnosis of patients and consistent reporting of cases to
public health agencies, according to the report, which is published
in the Feb. 1 issue of the CDC's
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
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