December 13, 2017

CDC Warns of Ciguatera Fish Poisoning in New York City

In the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published February 1, 2013, ciguatera fish poisoning is addressed. From August 2010 to July 2011, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene received reports of six outbreaks and one single case of ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP) that sickened 28 people. In the previous ten years, there were only 21 people sickened with this toxin in New York City.

Grouper on ReefFood Poisoning Bulletin has told you about this issue before. This illness used to occur only in the tropics, but the algae that produces the toxin, which fish eat, has now been found in the waters in Florida, Texas, South Carolina, and Miami. There are no practical field tests available to monitor fish for this toxin.

The illness causes gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and neurological symptoms that can last for months. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, which happen first. Then tingling of the lips and extremities and severe skin irritation occurs. Other symptoms can include hallucinations, anxiety, fatigue, hypotension, respiratory problems, and paralysis. Death is uncommon with this toxin.

The only way to control the disease is to educate the public, seafood suppliers, and distributors about known CFP endemic areas and high-risk fish species. The people affected by the outbreaks in New York City consumed barracuda.

The fish most likely to contain the toxin are large fish, since the toxin concentrates as it moves up the food chain. Species most likely to be contaminated include barracuda, grouper, snapper, jack, moray eel, Spanish mackerel, and some inshore tuna. The toxin is usually concentrated in the liver an kidneys.

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