By COLIN GUY
January, 7, 2009
Source of Article: http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/news/local/beaumont_woman_who_suffered_nerve_damage_serves_suit_to_restaurant_she_says_served_toxic_fish_01-07-2009.html
Donna Schroeder tried grouper for the first time last summer, and although she found the fish fantastic she won't ever be trying it again.
"When I first got stick I thought I had
typical, normal food poisoning and went to the emergency room at (
Over the next few days, Schroeder said, she began to experience several new symptoms. Cold surfaces felt hot, hot surfaces felt cold and she felt a peculiar tingling in her hand, she said.
"If I walked on bare tiles that are cold it will feel like it's burning," she said.
Schroeder said she entered the strange symptoms and 'grouper' into Google and soon found an answer: ciguatera poisoning.
In tropical waters algae that produce the toxins are eaten by small fish, which in turn are eaten by bigger fish later eaten by people, said Schroeder, who learned about the disease through conversations with the Center for Disease Control, Food and Drug Administration and a local physician familiar with the condition who has been treating her.
While ciguatera poisoning is common in Caribbean
countries and other parts of the world it is relatively unheard of in the
"This is what I think has happened, I think there have been many, many more of (these infections) than thought, but people thought they had food poisoning," she said. "They just put up with the symptoms if doctors don't know about it. No one is familiar with it because it's not been dealt with out here."
Fish that carry the toxins normally inhabit
waters containing coral reefs, which are relatively rare in
Symptoms from the neurotoxins can last for days, months, or in some cases several years, according to the Center for Disease Control, and sufferers may experience relapses throughout their life.
Cooking, burning or freezing fish carrying the toxins won't stop them from transmitting it to people, Schroeder noted, and there's no good method for testing for it. Schroeder said she has heard that if a suspect fish is left lying out for a little while and flies avoid it that could be an indication it is carrying the toxins.
Although the toxin cannot be detected, Schroeder has filed suit in 172nd District Court Jefferson County against Stingaree arguing that the restaurant had a duty to warn its customers about the danger of ciguatera poisoning, a disease for which there is no cure, only treatment for the symptoms.
Jim Vratis, Stingaree's owner who also is a lawyer, said he is sorry that Schroeder was infected and said he has since stopped serving the grouper.
He said the dish was very popular and noted that at least 50 other people ate the special the same evening as Schroeder without experiencing similar symptoms, that he is aware of, and speculated that she may have been naturally more susceptible to the toxins than other diners.
"It's just unfortunate," he said, adding that he has sent Schroeder and her husband, whom he knows as a fellow member of the legal community, a letter expressing his condolences.
Vratis added that there
was nothing the restaurant, which he said has had no complaints about
sanitation or problems with health inspections, could do to prevent the
infection. He said the fish was acquired from Katie's Seafood Market of
Galveston, which is also named in the lawsuit, and that it was fresh when
The fishermen that supply Katie's are prohibited from fishing within 90 miles of the reef and must sign affidavits declaring their compliance with the rule, he noted.
Whether a fish bearing toxins was swept by ocean currents away from the restricted area or something else happened that led to it being caught is virtually impossible to say, Vratis said.
restaurant will likely be closed through next month due to hurricane damage,
said he had never heard of ciguatera poisoning before, but that while in
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