Possibly, two people are sick from contaminated pistachios. Nonetheless, the whole country is on red alert with grocers busy pulling bags of nuts off shelves while housewives search their cupboards for the wandering lost shell...
Meantime, an actual threat with an ugly mug is swimming offshore in your local subtropical coral reef zone. There he is, on your left. The amberjack: a rough and tumble little guy hanging with his posse -- groupers, red snappers, eel, sea bass, barracuda, and Spanish mackerel -- who together sicken as many as 50,000 people every year. Take that pistachios!
Loves Labor Lost
In a new report, public health investigators describe a cluster of cases of painful intercourse associated with eating one of these fish. You heard me right. It makes one wonder what questions our public health professionals are asking their subjects during investigations...but as it turns out these fish ingest algae contaminated with a bad bug, a protozoan -- dinoflagellida to be exact -- from the class PHYTOMASTIGOPHORA.
The bugs make a poison, ciguatera, which, when ingested, can cause some pretty weird and alarming symptoms like:
Paradoxical temperature reversal (cold objects feel hot and hot objects feel cold)
A feeling of loose teeth
Painful intercourse (for both the man and the woman)
In the group reported with painful intercourse the men had painful ejaculations and the women complained of burning, and some of these problems persisted for a month.
Since fresh fish--like the baracuda you see here-- gets flown all around the world nowadays, don't think for one minute that you are safe from ciguartera poisoning by living in Iowa or Uzbekistan. This illness strikes everywhere. And ciguatera poisoning is the most common nonbacterial, fish-borne poisoning in the United States.
So how will you know if you've been poisoned?
First, you will have eaten fish. Maybe a fish sandwich or the daily special which was grouper provencale...Well, after about 6 hours your mouth and lips will feel numb and you'll start to vomit and get a bad case of the runs. Then your hands and feet will start to tingle...makes you wonder how anyone actually got to the point where they might experienced painful sex, doesn't it?
The room starts to spin right before you begin panting to catch each breath. You feel exhausted, yet your heart is beating faster and has a jumpy feeling.
That's when you go to grab the ice-cold can of Coke...AND IT'S BURNING HOT!
That's the classic finding: temperature reversal. If this happens to you send yourself straight to the local ER and demand several hours of a Mannitol infusion -- an IV with heavy molecules in it which serves to "flush" out the toxin. This seems to reverse the neurological problems and from that point on have your doctor treat you symptomatically.
Don't Be a Hog (Snapper)
If you want to avoid ciguatera, make sure you identify any fish you eat anywhere. No mystery fish allowed. Next, if the fish is from a tropical or subtropical zone, ask how big it was. Really. Because the chances of a fish accumulating significant ciguatera poison are proportional to its size and if the fish was greater than 2 kg--have the lasagna.
Now can anyone remember why the hell we are rushing to throw away 700 thousand tons of pistachios? The only painful intercourse resulting from eating nuts is when you accidentally roll over the shells.