Something Fishy Going On: HK gov’t investigating cases of puffer fish poisoning

“Poison…poison…tasty fish!” Screengrab via YouTube.
“Poison…poison…tasty fish!” Screengrab via YouTube.

So, you know how puffer fish is poisonous?

Well, apparently several people didn’t, according to a government press release that reported that the Centre for Health Protection is investigating two separate cases of puffer fish poisoning that saw four people admitted to the hospital yesterday.

One case saw three men, aged 55 to 59, who ate a locally caught puffer fish for dinner at a friend’s house on Wednesday. Two to four hours after consuming the fish, however, they began vomiting and experiencing numbness in their lips and limbs.

All three sought medical attention in the wee hours of yesterday morning.

The other case involved a 59-year-old woman who also went to the hospital after experiencing numbness of the mouth and limbs.

She and the other patients were all in stable condition, and one of the men had been discharged as of yesterday evening.

Puffer fish is a natural source of tetrodotoxin, a potent neurotoxin that affects the central nervous system.

“Organs such as the liver, gonads and skin of puffer fish have high concentrations of tetrodotoxin,” the government’s release notes. “Being heat-stable, the toxin does not decompose upon cooking, boiling, drying or freezing. Tetrodotoxin intoxication can cause problems in respiration or circulation and is potentially fatal. There is no known antidote or antitoxin.”

In Japan, the fish, known there as fugu, is considered a delicacy, but because of the presence of tetrodotoxin, chefs must undergo years of training to receive a license in its preparation.

Inexpert preparation can result in illness or death, as Homer Simpson learned the hard way back in 1991.


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