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Fish and Shellfish Poisoning

Overview :

Ciguatera Definition

Ciguatera (from the Spanish word for a poisonous snail) is a food-related illness that causes abdominal and neurological symptoms.

Causes and symptoms

Ciguatera is caused by eating fish that have a toxin called ciguatoxin. Scientists believe this toxin is acquired by the fish through the food chain, and is originally produced by small algae microorganisms (dinoflagellates). The fish most likely contaminated with ciguatoxin are those that feed close to tropical reefs, including red snapper, grouper, and barracuda. Larger fish are more likely to contain the toxin. Although not as common in the United States, ciguatera is commonly diagnosed on many of the islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Illness from ciguatera can occur in just a few minutes to about 30 hours after eating. Most cases occur one to six hours after eating the contaminated fish. Initial symptoms are abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, or watery diarrhea. The most characteristic symptoms of the illness are those involving the nervous system. These include numbness and tingling around the lips, tongue, and mouth; itching; dry mouth; metallic taste in the mouth; and blurry vision. In more prominent cases, patients may complain of temporary blindness, a slow pulse, and a feeling that their teeth are loose. Patients may also have the strange symptom of reversal of hot and cold sensations on the skin, where cold things feel very hot or painful to the touch. In very severe cases, there may be difficulties in breathing or low blood pressure.

Scombroid Definition

Scombroid is a fish-associated illness caused by eating improperly handled fish. Fish linked to this disease are usually in the Scombridae family, which includes yellowfin tuna, skipjack, bonito, and mackerel.

Paralytic shellfish poisoning Definition

Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) is a nervous system disease caused by eating cooked or raw shellfish that contain environmental toxins. These toxins are produced by a group of algae (dinoflagellates). It is unclear whether these toxins are related to the"blooming" of the algae, also called red tide because the algae can turn the water reddish brown. PSP occurs mostly in May through November.

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