JOURNAL ARTICLE

Cluster of ciguatera fish poisoning—North Carolina, 2007

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MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2009 March 27, 58 (11): 283-5
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Ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP) is a distinctive type of foodborne disease that results from eating predatory ocean fish contaminated with ciguatoxins. As many as 50,000 cases are reported worldwide annually, and the condition is endemic in tropical and subtropical regions of the Pacific basin, Indian Ocean, and Caribbean. In the United States, 5--70 cases per 10,000 persons are estimated to occur yearly in ciguatera-endemic states and territories. CFP can cause gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, or diarrhea) within a few hours of eating contaminated fish. Neurologic symptoms, with or without gastrointestinal disturbance, can include fatigue, muscle pain, itching, tingling, and (most characteristically) reversal of hot and cold sensation. This report describes a cluster of nine cases of CFP that occurred in North Carolina in June 2007. Among the nine patients, six experienced reversal of hot and cold sensations, five had neurologic symptoms only, and overall symptoms persisted for more than 6 months in three patients. Among seven patients who were sexually active, six patients also complained of painful intercourse. This report highlights the potential risks of eating contaminated ocean fish. Local and state health departments can train emergency and urgent care physicians in the recognition of CFP and make them aware that symptoms can persist for months to years.

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