"The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. is seeing an increase in ciguatera fish poisoning, or CFP, cases due to the consumption of the local red snapper," the agency announced Saturday.

"CFP is a common foodborne illness related to the consumption of certain species of fish that have been contaminated with a plankton (algae) derived toxin associated with coral reefs," the statement added. "The ciguatera toxin is nondetectable as it does not harm the fish and is unrecognizable when consumed. Unlike other foodborne illnesses, CFP is not transferred from cross-contamination due to inadequate food handler hygiene, food preparation, cooking, handling and storage. In addition, the ciguatera toxin can withstand cooking and freezing temperatures, and is not preventable if the fish species already harbors the toxin."

Common symptoms of CFP include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness, joint aches, headache, dizziness, tingling or numbness, itching, sometimes chills or sweating, dental pain and low blood pressure.

A characteristic symptom is "hot-cold reversal," when hot items feel cold and cold items feel hot.

Symptoms may appear within 15 minutes to 24 hours after consuming an infected fish. Most individuals who experience symptoms feel better in a few days to a week, but in some cases, symptoms have lasted for months and sometimes years.

Individuals experiencing symptoms of CFP are urged to seek medical attention as prompt treatment can reduce the severity of symptoms, especially in individuals with underlying medical conditions.

Fish associated with CFP

More than 400 species of fish are associated with CFP. The most common are older, larger fish that have been eating contaminated fish during their lifespan, including barracuda, grouper, jack, hogfish, mackerel and snapper. There is no specific prevention except to eat fish no larger than 4 pounds.

For more information, contact the CHCC Emergency Preparedness Program at 670-234-8950 or visit https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ciguatera.

For more information on foodborne illnesses, or about the inspections, contact Environmental Health and Disease Prevention at 670-664-4870/2/3 or email john.tagabuel@dph.gov.mp.

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