October 1992

Travel and Ciguatera Fish Poisoning

Author Affiliations

From the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (Dr Lange), and Nova Research Institute (Dr Snyder), Baltimore, Md; and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia (Dr Fudala).

Arch Intern Med. 1992;152(10):2049-2053. doi:10.1001/archinte.1992.00400220075013

Background.—  Ciguatera fish poisoning is a distinctive clinical syndrome associated with the consumption of contaminated marine fish. It is endemic in many popular travel destinations, including the Caribbean and Pacific Islands, where travelers are at risk.

Methods.—  Clinical review of 23 patients (60% were travelers) with ciguatera fish poisoning in whom consultation was provided between 1987 and 1990.

Results.—  Seven patients acquired ciguatera fish poison ing during international travel to the following destinations: Bahamas (n=4), Dominican Republic (n=1), British Virgin Islands (n=1), and United States (n=1). Suspected fish included grouper, red snapper, and amberjack. Two patients required emergency care, and four patients developed chronic symptoms. Severity was associated with chronicity, duration of peak symptoms, and worsening of symptoms with sexual activity. Chronicity was associated with severity, long latency period, and duration of peak symptoms. The three patients with complete resolution were scuba divers. Amitriptyline was the drug most often providing benefit for chronic symptoms.

Conclusions.—  Ciguatera fish poisoning is a health risk to travelers to endemic regions, and their risk likely equals that of indigenous population groups. Barracuda should never be eaten, and travelers should exercise caution when considering other fish dishes, notably, grouper and red snapper.(Arch Intern Med. 1992;152:2049-2053)