Press Release

Ministry of Health & Social Development
Release Date:
Thursday, 10 June 2021 - 4:46pm

The Ministry of Health and Social Development is notifying the public that there is a surge in Ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP) within the last three weeks.

National Epidemiologist Ms. Harmony Massiah said CFP is not uncommon in tropical and sub-tropical areas and is mainly associated with the consumption of big coral reef fish like snapper, bass and perch that have accumulated ciguatoxin in the body.

“The cases up until the week of June 6 were sporadic, but within a three-week span we had approximately eight confirmed cases, Ms. Massiah disclosed.  She further stated that other suspected cases are still being investigated and that all persons are in stable condition and should recover without long-term health effects.

Symptoms of ciguatoxin poisoning include itchiness, diarrhea, numbness of the hands and lips, weakness and abdominal pain that last for 30 minutes to three hours after eating a contaminated fish.

Other symptoms that the public should be aware of are; peri-oral parasthesia (tingling/pins and needle sensation around the mouth), palpitations and vomiting. Death is rare but may occur in severe cases due to dehydration, respiratory failure or cardiovascular shock during the initial illness period.

Ms. Massiah also cautioned that larger fish will have higher amounts of the toxin and contaminated fish cannot be identified by its appearance nor can the toxin be destroyed by cooking.

Ms. Massiah advised that the following measures must be taken to prevent ciguatera fish poisoning.

  • Reduce consumption of coral reef fish, like barracuda, snapper, bass, perch and hind
  • Avoid eating the head, skin, intestines and roe of coral reef fish, which usually have a higher concentration of toxins and is associated with greater symptom severity.
  • When eating coral reef fish, avoid consuming alcohol, peanuts or beans as they may magnify the effect of the poison;
  • Seek medical treatment immediately should symptoms of ciguatoxin fish poisoning appear
  • Do not buy fish when the source is doubtful.

Persons who may have consumed coral reef fish this year and are exhibiting any of the aforementioned symptoms should, call the Public Health Unit at 468-2274 or 468-2279

  • Fill out the short reporting form via OR
  • Scan the QR code (right) with your camera, which will take you to the reporting form.  Information elicited will be used to help identify potential fish species and sites for sampling and screening.


The Ministry of Health and Social Development is committed to improving the health of the people of the Virgin Islands.


Natasha Lettsome-Humphrey

Public Health Communications Specialist
Ministry of Health/Social Development
Telephone: 468-2286