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Fish Poisoning: Scombroid and Ciguatera

There are two types of fish poisoning reportable to the Section of Epidemiology: scombroid and ciguatera. More information about each condition is below.


Scombroid is an illness associated with eating fish that has been improperly refrigerated. Bacteria in the fish convert the naturally occurring amino acid histidine into histamine, which acts as a toxin in this case. Symptoms begin very rapidly after eating the fish, and resemble an allergic reaction. Fish from the Scombridae family, such as tuna, are most commonly associated with scombroid poisoning. However, any fish that isn't appropriately handled and kept cold after catching could transmit scombroid.


Ciguatera is an illness associated with eating fish from tropical coral reefs. The toxin that causes ciguatera is produced by an algae, and accumulates through the food web. Ciguatera can cause a variety of symptoms, but usually includes gastrointestinal symptoms and possibly neurological ones.

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