The Ministry of Health and Social Development warned last Thursday about a surge in ciguatera fish poisoning within the previous three weeks.

National Epidemiologist Harmony Massiah said ciguatera is mainly associated with the consumption of big coral reef fish like snapper, bass and perch that have accumulated ciguatoxin in the body.

“The cases up until the week of June 6 were sporadic, but within a three-week span we had approximately eight confirmed cases,” Ms. Massiah said.

She added that other suspected cases were being investigated but all victims were in stable condition and expected to recover fully.

Common symptoms are itchiness, diarrhoea, numb hands and lips, weakness and abdominal pain that last for 30 minutes to three hours after eating a contaminated fish.

Symptoms can also include tingling around the mouth, palpitations and vomiting.

Death is rare but may occur in severe cases due to dehydration, respiratory failure or cardiovascular shock during the initial illness period, according to government.

Ms. Massiah cautioned that larger fish tend to have higher amounts of the toxin.

A contaminated fish cannot be identified by its appearance, she added, and the toxin cannot be destroyed by cooking.

Anyone who suspects poisoning should seek medical help immediately, the ministry noted. For information call the Public Health Unit at 468-2274 or 468-2279.