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Scombroid Outbreaks Traced to Imported Fish

Keeping the fish cool from ship to consumer only way to eliminate risk of scombroid fish poisoning

TUESDAY, Aug. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Two outbreaks of scombroid fish poisoning from tuna fish in Louisiana and Tennessee in late 2006 could have been avoided if the fish had been properly refrigerated throughout the supply chain, according to a report published in the Aug. 17 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Scombroid fish poisoning is caused by high levels of histamine or other biogenic amines due to inadequate refrigeration. The acute symptoms include facial flushing, sweating, rash and a burning sensation in the mouth. It can also cause more serious symptoms including respiratory distress and blurred vision, requiring hospital treatment.

In the November outbreak in Tennessee, five people became ill 35 to 150 minutes after eating tuna steaks at a restaurant, one of whom required hospital treatment. The fish had been imported from Vietnam.

In the December outbreak in Louisiana, six oil refinery workers fell ill one to two hours after eating tuna caught in Indonesia and imported through Boston. Epidemiological investigations revealed the fish had probably been under-refrigerated before entry to the United States.

"These two investigations highlight the importance of timely communication among health care providers, state and local health departments, and FDA in preventing or limiting scombroid fish poisoning outbreaks," according to the report. "In both of these outbreaks, health care personnel considered scombroid fish poisoning in their initial differential diagnoses on the basis of symptoms and exposure to seafood."

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