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Illnesses caused by marine toxins.

Marine toxins are produced by algae or bacteria and are concentrated in contaminated seafood. Substantial increases in seafood consumption in recent years, together with globalization of the seafood trade, have increased potential exposure to these agents. Marine toxins produce neurological, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular syndromes, some of which result in high mortality and long-term morbidity. Routine clinical diagnostic tests are not available for these toxins; diagnosis is based on clinical presentation and a history of eating seafood in the preceding 24 h. There is no antidote for any of the marine toxins, and supportive care is the mainstay of treatment. In particular, paralytic shellfish poisoning and puffer fish poisoning can cause death within hours after consuming the toxins and may require immediate intensive care. Rapid notification of public health authorities is essential, because timely investigation may identify the source of contaminated seafood and prevent additional illnesses. Extensive environmental monitoring and sometimes seasonal quarantine of a harvest are employed to reduce the risk of exposure.

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