DPHSS Reminds the Community to Be Aware of Fish Poisoning (Ciguatera toxin)

PRESS RELEASE NO.:  2020-040

 DPHSS Reminds the Community to Be Aware of Fish Poisoning (Ciguatera toxin)

The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS) would like to alert the public that six people fell ill on December 23, 2019 from suspected fish poisoning (Ciguatera poisoning).   Consumers are warned that ciguatera poisoning is normally seen in predatory fish.  Ciguatera fish poisoning commonly occurs in tropical and subtropical area, particularly in the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and Caribbean Sea.  Any reef fish can cause ciguatera poisoning, but species such as barracuda, grouper, red snapper, moray eel, amberjack, parrotfish, hogfish, sturgeon fish, kingfish, coral trout, and sea bass are the most commonly affected.  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.  No anti-toxin is available to treat this condition.

Individuals who consume any fish that contains the toxin can experience many symptoms:  tingling and numbness in fingers, 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.  Individuals may wish to consult with their physicians to evaluate other potential causes of their symptoms and may also wish to consult when their symptoms are more severe.

For more information, go to: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/fish-poisoning-ciguatera-scombroid.

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.
  1. Eat other types of fish.
  1. 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.
  1. Individuals should be counseled that consumption of fish, alcohol, caffeine, and nuts within six months of poisoning may trigger a recurrence of symptoms and elimination of these foods from their diet is prudent. They should also understand that future attacks of ciguatera fish poisoning might be worse than the initial illness. Ciguatera is not an infectious disease, and individuals do not develop immunity to the toxin.


For more information and to report any suspected fish poisoning, contact DPHSS at 735-7221.

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