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News Release

   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   April 12, 2002


Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg or Dennis McGowan

State Issues Health Alert on Contaminated Pufferfish

TRENTON - The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) and the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES) have been investigating several cases of neurotoxin poisoning associated with the consumption of contaminated pufferfish (also known as blowfish). The contaminated fish were reportedly taken from ocean waters near Titusville, Florida.

Two of the affected New Jersey residents had consumed contaminated pufferfish in mid-March that had been recreationally caught in Florida by a relative and transported to New Jersey. Today, a third person was diagnosed by a hospital in Bergen County with symptoms compatible with neurotoxin poisoning. The individual had also reportedly consumed pufferfish purchased from a local retail fish store.

The symptoms of neurotoxin poisoning may include numbness of the lips and tongue, tingling and burning of the face and extremities, incoherent or slurred speech, and in some cases may lead to respiratory paralysis. The symptoms normally appear rapidly within minutes to several hours after consumption of the contaminated fish.

Marine biotoxins, such as this neurotoxin, are naturally occurring in marine waters and are a by-product of algal blooms upon which the pufferfish feed. These biotoxins may accumulate in the fish. This toxin cannot be destroyed by cooking or freezing.

The NJDHSS is working closely with public health and marine research officials from the state of Florida, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The department is recommending that anyone with pufferfish that may have originated from Florida not consume the product. If you have any questions regarding this investigation, please contact the department during normal work hours at 609-588-3123 or (609) 392-2020 after hours.

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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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