MOH issues Ciguatera poisoning advisory

Barracuda Fish
(Photo courtesy Encyclopedia Britannica)

Monday, August 21, 2017. Beware of barracuda poisoning.

That advisory was issued by the Ministry of Health late last week after confirmation that Ciguatera poisoning was detected in persons who ate barracuda fish bought from a vendor in Ladyville village in the Belize district.

The official advisory says that Individuals who consume any fish that contains the toxin can experience many symptoms including 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 most symptoms disappear after a few days and complete recovery happens after a few weeks.

While the Ministry of Health noted that the confirmed cases of Ciguatera poisoning were linked to barracuda fish, there are other predatory fish that can cause Ciguatera poisoning.

These include coral trout, red snapper, grouper, Spanish mackerel and reef cod.

The advisory says that the toxin does not affect the appearance, odor or taste of the fish; and freezing or cooking the contaminated fish will not prevent the poisoning.

Anyone who consumes fish contaminated with the Ciguatera toxin will become ill.

To prevent Ciguatera poisoning, consumers are advised to: avoid eating the head, roe or fish egg, liver, or other organs of the fish as it is where the highest level of toxin is present; eat other types of fish aside from the ones named; avoid eating large sea fish.

Limit the weight of a fish to less than 11 pounds as Ciguatera fish poisoning occurs more frequently in larger fish; and report any suspected fish poisoning to the local Public Health Officer so necessary action can be taken to prevent it.