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August 2006 Vol. 32, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Ciguatera Facts

from the August, 2006 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The highest incidence of ciguatera occurs in warm-water coral reef fish, especially in the Caribbean and Pacific, usually between 35° north and 35° south latitude. It’s caused by a microscopic alga that accumulates in the flesh of larger species (two kilograms, or five to six pounds), such as barracuda, snapper, jacks and groupers and has been found in 425 species. The majority of coral reefs are not ciguatoxic. Outbreaks of ciguatera are limited in distribution and time and are usually very localized.

Seek early medical attention if you suspect you have ciguatera. You can call the Ciguatera Hotline at (305) 661- 0774 or DAN’s Diving Emergency Hotline at (919) 684- 8111 for advice.

Nevertheless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says: “Unfortunately, there is no single specific remedy for the treatment of ciguatera fish poisoning. The most successful management of the disease has been accomplished by supportive and symptomatic treatment such as induced vomiting.” Include oral antihistamines in your first aid kit, as these are likely to help relieve the debilitating itching. Don’t expect your resort to be prepared.

For information, go to has helpful advice for divers.

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