Ciguatera Fish Poisoning

Ciguatera fish poisoning is a type of food poisoning people get by eating fish that contain ciguatoxins.

Ciguatoxins are natural toxins made by algae. The fish that cause ciguatera fish poisoning get the ciguatoxins by eating smaller fish that eat the algae.

The bigger the fish, the more ciguatoxin it contains. The highest levels of ciguatoxin are usually found in large, predatory reef fish. This includes barracuda, grouper, amberjack, snapper and mackerel. Fish with ciguatoxins do not look, smell or taste differently from fish without ciguatoxins.


Always ask what kind of fish you are buying. You can avoid getting ciguatera fish poisoning by not eating large tropical reef fish. Eating smaller fish decreases your risk. Even a small amount of a large fish can make you sick.


People with ciguatera fish poisoning usually have a mix of symptoms, including:

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cardiovascular problems and stomach pain. These symptoms usually occur within 24 hours of eating the fish and can last for a few days.
  • Numbness, tingling of the mouth, hands or feet, dizziness, difficulty walking, itchiness, weakness, reversal of hot and cold sensation or becoming sensitive to temperature changes. These symptoms can last for a few weeks, months or even years.
  • Other symptoms includes headache, muscle aches, joint pain, a feeling of loose teeth and a metallic taste in the mouth.


There is no specific treatment for ciguatera poisoning, but your health care provider may be able to treat your symptoms.

If you think you may have ciguatera poisoning, call the New York City Poison Control Center at 800-212-POISONS (800-222-1222). To report a case of ciguatera fish poisoning, call 311.

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