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CHP investigates two suspected ciguatoxin food poisoning clusters
     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is today (March 31) investigating two suspected ciguatoxin food poisoning clusters affecting four persons, and hence reminded the public to eat less coral reef fish to reduce the risk of poisoning.

     The first cluster involves one man and one woman aged from 37 to 70 who developed nausea, vomiting and limb weakness seven to 11 hours after consuming fish at lunch at home yesterday (March 30). Both attended United Christian Hospital (UCH) and were admitted for management.

     The other comprises two women aged 50 and 76 who developed vomiting, diarrhoea, limb numbness and weakness five to 13 hours after eating fish for dinner at home yesterday. Both attended the Accident and Emergency Department of UCH and one has been discharged upon management.

     All affected persons have been in stable condition.

     Initial enquiries revealed that the fish consumed were bought from a fish stall in Tak Tin Market, Lam Tin, yesterday morning.

     "We have informed the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department of the incident and investigations are ongoing," a spokesman for the CHP said.

     Ciguatera fish poisoning is not uncommon in tropical areas. It is mainly associated with the consumption of big coral reef fish which have accumulated the toxin in the body, in particular in internal organs, through eating small fish that consumed toxic algae in coral reef seas.

     A 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 whether it contains the toxin.

     People affected may show symptoms of numbness of the mouth and limbs, vomiting, diarrhoea, alternating sensations of coldness and hotness and pain in the joints and muscles.

     "Most people affected by ciguatoxin will recover without long-term health effects, but if excessive toxins are consumed, the circulatory and nervous systems can be affected. The toxin cannot be destroyed by cooking," the spokesman said.

     To prevent ciguatera fish poisoning, the public should:
  • Eat less coral reef fish;
  • Eat small amounts of coral reef fish at any meal and avoid having a whole fish feast in which all 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 toxins;
  • 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; and
  • Coral reef fish should be purchased from reputable and licensed seafood shops. Do not buy the fish when the source is doubtful.
Ends/Friday, March 31, 2017
Issued at HKT 19:50
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