Family & friends poisoned by fish caught on vacation - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Family & friends poisoned by fish caught on vacation

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BRADENTON, FL - Karen Goncalves gave her son, Austin, a dream vacation fishing in the Bahamas. The 15-year-old loves fishing and spends much of his spare time on the water.  They went with a friend of his and Karen's boyfriend.  But a few days into the vacation they all got violently ill.

They were rushed to a hospital for treatment and placed on IV fluids, but the medical staff didn't immediately know what was wrong. They were all flown to Miami for a diagnosis.  It turns out they contracted ciguatera poisoning from a fish Austin and his friend caught.

The fish get contaminated with Ciguatera toxin which is harmless to the fish but poisonous to humans. You can't tell the fish is infected because there's no smell or signs it's poisoned. The fish contracts it by eating toxins from algae along a coral reef in the Bahamas.  It's pretty rare in the United States but more common in the  Bahamas. People are discouraged from eating large fish from the reef area in the Bahamas because of it.

The poisoning causes nausea, pain, seizures, hallucination and sometimes paralysis. For the most part the symptoms go away in a couple weeks but full recovery can take months. Patients are susceptible to relapse so they are typically discouraged from eating fish for a year.

The helicopter transport to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami was $10,000 per person and then there's the expense of the hospital care itself. Austin's case was the most severe and he has spent the most time in the hospital and rehabilitative care. Austin's friends started a fundraiser in order to help. Their goal is $30,000. CLICK HERE for more information.


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