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News From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
March 20, 2013

Ciguatera Fish Poisoning—New York City, 2010-2011

JAMA. 2013;309(11):1102-1104. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.1523

MMWR. 2013;4:61-65.

1 table omitted. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/wk/mm6204.pdf.

During August 2010-July 2011, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) received reports of six outbreaks and one single case of ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP), involving a total of 28 persons. CFP results from consumption of certain large, predatory, tropical reef fish that have bioaccumulated ciguatoxins (CTX). CFP is characterized by various gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and neurologic symptoms. A prolonged period of acute illness can result, and the neurologic symptoms can last months, with variable asymptomatic and symptomatic periods. The first two outbreaks and the single case, involving 13 persons, were reported during August 6-September 13, 2010. DOHMH distributed a health alert in November 2010 requesting health-care providers be alert for CFP signs and symptoms. The health alert resulted in identification of 11 more cases that month and an additional two outbreaks involving four persons in July 2011. In comparison, only four CFP outbreaks, involving 21 persons total, had been reported in New York City (NYC) during the preceding 10 years (2000-2009). DOHMH's investigation revealed that 13 persons became ill after eating barracuda, and 15 became ill after eating grouper. Although specific and highly sensitive laboratory analyses can detect and confirm CTX in fish, no practical field tests are available for fish monitoring programs. CFP prevention depends on educating the public, seafood suppliers, and distributors about known CFP endemic areas and high-risk fish species. Traceback investigations of fish associated with outbreaks provide valuable information regarding fishing areas associated with CFP. Not all fish from CFP endemic areas are ciguatoxic, but persons who eat fish from endemic regions are at higher risk for CFP. If an illness is suspected to be CFP, public health authorities should be notified and informed of the case history for possible investigation and intervention measures.

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