Poisonous Turtle Meat Kills Seven in Tanzania

marine turtle
Source: Freepik

Several people developed food poisoning and seven people died from eating poisonous turtle meat in Tanzania.

According to the BBC, last Thursday, at least five families living on Tanzania’s Pemba Island consumed turtle meat. However, by the next day, three people had died. A further 38 people were hospitalized after eating the poisonous turtle meat. Local authorities have reported a total of seven deaths so far, including a three-year-old. Zanzibar’s President Hussein Mwinyi tweeted his condolences to the affected families.

I offer my condolences to the families of the deceased who ate the turtle suspected to be poisonous in Msuka Taponi village, Micheweni District, Pemba. I ask the families of the deceased to be patient during this difficult time of tragedy.

President Hussein Mwinyi, Zanzibar’s President

It is unclear as to what caused the turtle meat to become toxic. According to the Turtle Foundation charity, the poisoning could have occurred because of poisonous algae commonly eaten by turtles. Although turtle meat is a delicacy in the region, its consumption can often cause a rare type of food poisoning called chelonitoxism.

What is Chelonitoxism?

Chelonitoxism is a rare type of food poisoning that results from the consumption of eating marine turtles. Four species of marine turtles in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans are linked to the disease. In the past, cases of chelonitoxism have come from Indonesia, Philippines, Southeast Asia and New Guinea. The deadly disease has no cure and treatment is mostly supportive.

The disease often presents with diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, and abdominal pain. Organs such as the liver, stomach, intestines, esophagus, kidneys, and gall bladder may also become affected. Autopsies have shown necrosis and hemorrhage of these organs. Furthermore, cardiovascular symptoms such as tachycardia and decreased blood pressure can also occur. Some people can develop neurological signs including vertigo, decreased reflexes and even coma.

It is unclear as to what causes the poisoning; scientists link it to the consumption of toxic algae by marine turtles. Researchers hope that a ban on the consumption of these endangered species will decrease human mortality and increase turtle numbers.

Following the incident, Zanzibar authorities have now banned the consumption of turtles.

Source: BBC News


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