The Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health announced Apr.1 they are investigating a suspected ciguatoxin food poisoning case.


The affected 55-year-old man developed tongue and oral numbness, and limb weakness two hours after consuming fish head and alcoholic drink at lunch at home Mar. 31. The patient attended the Accident and Emergency Department of Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital yesterday and was found to have hypotension and bradycardia. He was admitted for management on the same day. The patient has been in stable condition.

Initial inquiries revealed that the fish consumed was bought from a fish stall in Tai Yuen Market, Tai Po, on March 30 afternoon.

Ciguatera fish poisoning is not uncommon in tropical areas. It is mainly associated with the consumption of big coral reef fish which have accumulated the toxin in the body, in particular in internal organs, through eating small fish that consumed toxic algae in coral reef seas.

A larger fish is therefore more likely to carry higher amounts of the toxin. However, it is not easy to tell from the appearance of the fish whether it contains the toxin.

People affected may show symptoms of numbness of the mouth and limbs, vomiting, diarrhea, alternating sensations of coldness and hotness and pain in the joints and muscles.

“Most people affected by ciguatoxin will recover without long-term health effects, but if excessive toxins are consumed, the circulatory and nervous systems can be affected. The toxin cannot be destroyed by cooking,” the spokesman said.

To prevent ciguatera fish poisoning, the public should:

  • Eat less coral reef fish;
  • Eat small amounts of coral reef fish at any meal and avoid having a whole fish feast in which all dishes come from the same big coral reef fish;
  • Avoid eating the head, skin, intestines and roe of coral reef fish, which usually have a higher concentration of toxins;
  • When eating coral reef fish, avoid consuming alcohol, peanuts or beans as they may aggravate ciguatoxin poisoning;
  • Seek medical treatment immediately should symptoms of ciguatoxin fish poisoning appear; and
  • Coral reef fish should be purchased from reputable and licensed seafood shops. Do not buy the fish when the source is doubtful.