Rockhampton Hospital.
Rockhampton Hospital.

Woman poisoned by toxic fish

A YEPPOON woman who suffered kidney failure and hallucinations after eating fish says she doesn't want others to suffer the same.

Nicki Smith, a mother of two, said she was turned away from the Capricorn Coast Hospital and Health Service last week after it was assumed her symptoms were the result of taking illicit drugs.

It was only after one of many consultations with her GP the truth was revealed - she had suffered a toxic reaction called ciguatera poisoning from eating a small piece of a 1.2m Spanish mackerel caught by her partner.

Left with not knowing when she will have hallucinations as her symptoms continue, Nicki wants to educate people of the dangers of eating large fish over a metre in length.

A Queensland Health consumer fact sheet states ciguatera poisoning can occur when eating warm-water ocean fish which store the ciguatera toxin.

The toxin attaches itself to algae which are eaten by small fish, which are then eaten by larger, predatory fish, which are then eaten by humans.

By this stage, the toxin is more concentrated and can be poisonous to people.

Poisoning occurs more frequently when larger fish are eaten, and it is recommended people avoid eating warm-water fish, and limit consumption to fish six kilograms or under (whole weight).

Nicki said she could no longer eat her favourite fish and was on a strict diet until her kidneys recovered and the toxin was flushed from her body.

She said she couldn't work as she didn't know how long the symptoms would last and there was not enough information available locally.

"I felt like I was having a stroke. My chest goes tight and I feel like I can't feel my legs. It will wear off over time," she said.

"I have to have weekly blood tests to keep an eye on my kidneys."


Ciguatera poisoning

  • Caused by eating warm-water ocean fish that carry ciguatera poison (a toxin)
  • Limit consumption to fish six kilograms or under (whole weight)
  • Carriers include coral trout, Spanish mackerel, red emperor, reef cod, sturgeon fish, trevally and kingfish.
  • Symptoms: tingling and numbness, burning sensation on skin when touching cold water, joint and muscle pains, weakness nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea.
  • Some symptoms may last for several months, most disappear within weeks.

Source: QLD Health Consumer fact sheet 2.

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