Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fish Dying Off All Over the USA

A ProMED-mail post

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International Society for Infectious Diseases

Date: Sat 10 Jul 2010
Source: [edited]

Mysterious illness killing puffer fish
A wildlife disease specialist with the US Geological Survey said his
office has received at least 100 reports of dead puffer fish from
across the state in the last 6 months.

Dying puffer fish were discovered in Kona back in February [2010].
Reports of dead puffers were coming from Maui in May. Recently, the
puffer fish have been washing ashore in Kaneohe Bay and Kailua beach
here [Honolulu] on Oahu.

The sick and dying puffer fish have been found with lesions on the
skin, but it's what they're finding on the inside that has
researchers alarmed. "We're seeing things like enlarged livers,
enlarged swim bladders, which is the organ that allows them to
float," said the US wildlife disease specialist Theirry Work.

Work and his staff have been able to analyze only 14 sick puffer fish
so far and they're baffled by what is killing them.

Right now, they're leaning towards some type of virus or toxicosis.

"We really need to sort out what it is that's killing them. Once we
sort out the cause, we can decide if it can affect other fish or
not," said Work.

The illness appears to be affecting the striped puffer fish the most,
followed by the porcupine puffer fish. Researchers are asking for the
public to be on the lookout for these sick fish. They ask if you find
one, to put it on ice and report it to your local aquatics resources office.

"You'll see these fish either floating and can't submerge and they
just don't look right, or if they're on the beach, their gills will
be moving a little bit," said Work. "As long as there's a little bit
of movement in those fish, they're super fresh and we can use them.
If they've sitting on the beach a while, they're too decomposed and
we can't do much with them."

These agencies will take care of transporting the fish to Oahu for analysis:
DLNR Division of Aquatics Resources
Eyes of the Reef:
Kauai - Paul Clark
Maui - Darla White
Oahu - Thierry Work or Greta Aeby
Big Island - Linda Preskitt

Communicated by:
HealthMap Alerts via ProMED-mail

[There are about 100 species of puffer fish. Most puffer fish are
found in sub-tropical and tropical marine waters in the Atlantic,
Pacific, and Indian Oceans. Some puffers live in brackish and fresh water.

The puffer fish is also known as the blowfish, fugu, swellfish, and
globefish. It is called the puffer fish because when it is
threatened, it puffs up to about twice its normal size by gulping
water. In this engorged state, the puffer fish can swim at only about
half its normal speed.

Any number of toxins in the water may be causing the problem, or
perhaps a different concentration of an agent. A water analysis may
be helpful. Also, it may be helpful to know if their food source has
changed: is it less or more abundant? What about water temperatures
as compared to previous years?

Many parts of the blowfish (including the liver, muscles, skin, and
ovaries) contain an extremely strong, paralyzing poison called
tetrodoxin. This poison is about a thousand times deadlier than
cyanide. There is no known antidote for this poison. Fugu (torafugu
or _Fugu rubripes_, Japanese puffer fish) is eaten in Japan, but is
only cooked by specially-trained chefs who can minimize the amount of
poison. Even so, many Japanese diners have died from eating this
poisonous delicacy.

The poison found in puffer fish, blowfish, balloon fish, toads,
sunfish, porcupine fish, toadfish, globefish, and swellfish is a
tetrodotoxin. This is one of the most toxic poisons found in nature.
Most people who eat puffer fish do so intentionally; puffer fish are
considered an Asian delicacy, served in some types of sushi and
sashimi. Unless the chef is specially trained to cut the meat in a
particular fashion, the dish may contain a large amount of the toxin.
Puffer fish poisoning is similar to paralytic shellfish poisoning.

Portions of this comment have been extracted from

See image of puffer fish at

Image of tetrodotoxin molecule at

[The HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map of Hawaii is available at
. - Sr.Tech.Ed.MJ

[see also:
Undiagnosed die-off, fish - USA: (PA, ID) 20100716.2373
Undiagnosed fish die-off - USA: (MI) RFI 20100618.2056
Undiagnosed fish die-off - Canada: (ON) 20100613.1987
Undiagnosed fish die-off - USA (02): (WV, OH, PA) columnaris 20100610.1946
Undiagnosed fish die-off - USA: (WV, OH, PA) 20100601.1827
Undiagnosed fish die-off - USA: (NJ) koi herpesvirus susp. 20100528.1773
Tetrodotoxin, sea slug, canine - NZ (02): dolphin susp. 20090906.3136
Tetrodotoxin, sea slug, canine - New Zealand 20090818.2923
Tetrodotoxin poisoning, puffer fish - Japan (Yamagata) 20090129.0399

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