The Ministry of Health and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) wish to provide an update on the most recent outbreak of Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP) and the types of fish involved, and remind members of the public about the key facts of CFP.
Between 29th June and 17th July, the Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit of the Ministry of Health (ESU) received 13 reports of CFP. The fishes implicated in this outbreak were large Amberjacks and Barracuda. However, it should be noted that large Yellow jacks and Cubera snappers have been implicated in past cases of CFP in Bermuda.
Yellow jack and Amberjack may both be mistaken for the Almaco jack, which is locally called ‘Bonita’. Almaco jack / Bonita has not been implicated in any CFP cases in Bermuda.
Ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP) is caused by toxins (or poisonous substances) from microscopic marine plants, which can enter the food chain and build-up in large predatory fish. Whether or not an individual fish contains CFP toxins depends on the type and quantity of food that fish has eaten, as well as the prevalence of toxin-producing plants in the area where it has been feeding, so it is difficult to predict CFP risk. An older or larger predatory fish that has eaten many herbivorous fishes over a period of time has a greater risk of carrying CFP toxins than a younger or smaller fish of the same species.
The fish themselves are not affected by the toxin, and the handling of the fish (i.e. how it was processed and stored post-catch) does not affect the presence of the toxin. CFP does not change the appearance, taste or smell of a fish, and it is not affected by cooking or freezing. There is no simple detection test.
Some of the symptoms reported included: diarrhea, itchy skin, numbness, burning skin, nausea, vomiting, pain to limbs and fatigue or weakness. The sensation of heat / burning when touching something cold is a telltale sign of CFP because it is absent in other types of fish-related food poisoning.
ESU and the DENR will continue to collaborate to investigate any new reports of CFP and will provide an update if there are any ongoing concerns.
If you or someone you know has experienced or may have experienced the symptoms listed above, please contact your physician. With CFP, symptoms can appear between 1 to 72 hours after eating the suspect fish. Prompt reporting of CFP makes it easier for the Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit to track down the source and can help prevent further cases