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Fish Lovers Beware!

The latest advisory from the Ministry of Health states that two other cases of suspected Ciguatera or fish poisoning have been identified. Investigations conducted so far reveal that the barracuda fish from the Turneffe Islands area has been the sole carrier of the ciguatoxin or poison.  This is concerning because for some, their favorite Belizean dishes are serre and boil-up which are made with barracuda fish. Senior Public Health Inspector, Lisa Tillett, spoke to Love News.


Senior Public Health Inspector, Lisa Tillett.

Once you are going to make and you are going to have a lot of boiling and beating up of the fish you are going to try to get a fish that is very tough and for the Barracuda that is what is mostly used for the sere and boil up because it withstands the cooking.”


The Ministry of Health is advising that toxic fish does not have any odor or taste and cooking and freezing does not eliminate the toxin. The first case was detected last week in Ladyville and since then more cases have been identified.


Senior Public Health Inspector, Lisa Tillett.


It has spread to the Belize City market and I know of a case in Punta Gorda so I think we should advise the entire country and I think that is what the Ministry of Health is trying to do. It usually occurs in the month of July and August but this is the first year that we have seen so many cases so we will just have to take it one day at at time and see how the cases develop and when the cases end.”

Love News also spoke with the Primary Care Coordinator, Dr. Melissa Diaz, who told us about the symptoms of the illness.


Primary Care Coordinator, Dr. Melissa Diaz

The poison is generally a clinical diagnosis so we’ve got to take a good history, see what the person has eaten and determine whether or not the family has it, other people who have eaten the same fish so we look at the history first but the patient would present with mostly gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting and abdominal pain and bloating but it can also affect other systems in the body the neurological systems so patients would present with numbness or pain in the fingers or around the lips, numbness of the tongue, shooting pain in the body and in that way it distinguishes it a little bit from bacterial or viral gastroenteritis because the symptoms tend to be much more severe. So the main systems are the GI  system and then the neurological system as well but other presentations like muscle pain, weakness, blurred vision symptoms of dehydration as well so blood pressure may fall, your pulse rate may also fall so there are many other things as well that help us to differentiate and make the clinical diagnosis of the poisoning.”

Dr. Diaz said that recovering from the illness may vary depending on the severity.


Primary Care Coordinator, Dr. Melissa Diaz

Both of us may have the same fish but you may be much more ill than I am. Generally five to seven days you would start to improve but symptoms like the neurological symptoms and numbness can last sometimes for weeks after. The treatment basically is supportive so IV fluids if you are dehydrated, painkillers like ibuprofen if need be so mainly bed rest and supportive management and then just depending on how severe you got the toxin you may respond within three to five days somebody else might be a bit longer or even longer depending on the severity.”

The Ministry advises that persons should avoid eating large sea fish. Consumers should also avoid eating certain parts of the fish such as the head, fish egg, liver or other organs of the fishes as it is where the highest level of toxin is present.