CHP investigating suspected ciguatoxin poisoning case
21 Sep 2010
The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is today (September 21) investigating a suspected ciguatoxin poisoning case affecting seven people who had consumed coral reef fish.
The case involved two men and five women, aged between 35 and 61. All the affected developed symptoms of ciguatoxin poisoning including limb numbness, diarrhoea, palpitation and reversal of sensation of hotness and coldness about six to fourteen hours after eating coral reef fish in a restaurant in Lau Fau Shan yesterday.
They all sought medical treatment. No hospitalisation was required. All the affected are now in stable condition.
The investigation continues.
A CHP spokesman said ciguatera fish poisoning was not uncommon in tropical areas. It is mainly associated with the consumption of a big coral reef fish which has accumulated the toxin in its body, in particular internal organs, through eating small fishes that consume toxic algae in coral reef seas.
The larger fish is therefore more likely to carry higher amounts of the toxin. However it is not easy to tell from the appearance of the fish if it contains the toxin.
People affected may show symptoms of numbness of the mouth and limbs, vomiting, diarrhoea, reversal of sensation of coldness and hotness and pain of the joints and muscles.
The spokesman said that most people affected by ciguatoxin would recover without long-term health effects.
However, if excessive toxin was consumed, the circulatory and nervous systems would be affected.
"The toxin cannot be destroyed by cooking", the spokesman said.
To prevent ciguatera fish poisoning, members of the public should observe the following measures:
* Eat less coral reef fish.
* Eat small amounts of coral reef fish at any one meal and avoid having a whole fish feast in which all the dishes come from the same big coral reef fish.
* Avoid eating the head, skin, intestines and roe of coral reef fish, which usually have a higher concentration of toxin.
* When eating coral reef fish, avoid consuming alcohol, peanuts or beans as they may aggravate ciguatoxin poisoning.
* Seek medical treatment immediately should symptoms of ciguatoxin fish poisoning appear.
* Coral reef fish should be purchased from reputable and licensed seafood shops. Do not buy it when the source is doubtful.