Florida Fish Toxic Poison Reports on the Rise
About Ciguatera Poisoning
Most infections in the area were caused by eating fish caught in the Bahamas or Florida Keys. A type of algae that grows on corals reefs makes a toxin that can accumulate in the bodies of tropical fish, resulting in illness when the fish are consumed.
Florida sits on the northernmost range of the algae, said Elizabeth Radke, epidemiologist at the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute and lead author of the recent study on ciguatera poisoning.
Richard Lewis, a professor of pharmacology at University of Queensland, Australia, stated: “We believe ciguatera has increased over the last 30 years, but the role of climate change is uncertain.” Lewis went on to say that the warming of the oceans might expand the geographic range of the ciguatera algae and increase rates of the illness.
Cooking Does Not Destroy Poison
The Florida study found that contaminated barracuda, grouper, amberjack, and hogfish made people sick with ciguatera. No cooking or smoking method can destroy the poison, said Fox News.
The poisoning causes severe nausea, vomiting, and the feeling of having hot and cold sensations reversed. Other symptoms can occur so ciguatera poisoning can be hard to diagnose, said Mikel Lopez, a poison specialist at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Poison Control Center.
Co-author of the scientific paper and bureau chief of the Environmental Health Unit of Florida’s Department of Health, Andy Reich, described that generally people infected with ciguatera start feeling sick 2 hours to a day after eating the contaminated fish. The illness passes in a matter of days or weeks. Cases of the illness lasting longer can occur but are extremely rare.
Toxic Fish Poisoning Statistics
The University of Florida study estimates 56 people with ciguatera poisoning per year for every 1 million people in the state. Previous calculations estimated only 2 cases per 1 million a year.
Florida’s health records report only 291 cases of ciguatera between 2000 and 2011. University of Florida researchers found that many cases go unreported.
The University of Florida study, published June 29 in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, surveyed 311,799 fishing-license holders in the state of Florida who provided an email on their license application. 5,352 people responded to the survey. 245 described illnesses that researchers classified as likely cases of ciguatera poisoning. 74 described possible cases.
The study found that Hispanic people are at greater risk for getting ciguatera poisoning, possibly because of a cultural preference for eating barracuda.
Though rare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports ciguatera poisoning can be fatal.