Tropical Fish Poisoning

Ciguatera, also known as tropical fish poisoning, is a disease which can affect people who have eaten certain varieties of tropical fish.

The results of such poisoning can be very serious and, although seldom resulting in death, can cause severe discomfort. Victims of ciguatera poisoning are often ill for weeks and some symptoms may persist for months.

Ciguatera occurs only in tropical waters and in the Atlantic area, predominantly in the waters of south Florida and the islands of the Caribbean.

One problem with fish poisoning is that it is impossible to differentiate between toxic and nontoxic fish. The fish itself is not affected by the toxins and therefore appears quite normal and edible. The toxins cannot be tasted and washing, cooking or freezing will not render them harmless.

Many tales exist throughout the Caribbean on how to tell toxic from nontoxic fish, including cooking silver coins with the fish and if the coin turns black, it is toxic. Another is that flies will not land on a piece of toxic fish. While such homespun ideas are interesting bits of Caribbean folklore, they do not work and should not be relied upon.

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