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Published On: Thu, Feb 6th, 2014

Queensland mother-daughter deaths in Bali linked to suspected scombroid poisoning

A mother and daughter who died last month vacationing in Bali is believed to be due to a foodborne illness from fish, according to a ABC News Australia report Wednesday.

The report notes that the autopsies performed on Queensland mother Noelene Bischoff, 54, and her 14-year-old daughter Yvana in Brisbane have ruled out foul play and it is suspected to be from scombroid poisoning, which is a very unusual type of fish poisoning they contracted ate a restaurant.

Scombroid fish poisoning is an acute syndrome characterized by facial flushing, sweating, rash, a burning or peppery taste in the mouth, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps and usually resolve within several hours without medical intervention.

Bluefin tuna Image/California Department of Fish and Game

Bluefin tuna
Image/California Department of Fish and Game

This is due to histamine toxicity from the ingestion of spoiled fish. The fish do not contain high levels of histamine when caught; instead they have histidine in their flesh. Histamine is produced during spoilage from common surface bacteria on the fish. The histamine is not destroyed by cooking.

The type of fish implicated in this food poisoning are mainly of the scombroid type; tuna, mackerel, skipjack and albacore. Some non-scombroid fish such as mahimahi, bluefish, anchovies, and herring have been implicated. 

Risks are greatest for fish imported from tropical and semi-tropical areas and fish caught by recreational fisherman who may not have the refrigerated storage for larger fish.

In addition to the symptoms above which generally appear quite rapidly (within minutes to hours), more severe symptoms may include difficulty in swallowing, respiratory distress and blurred vision. People on isoniazid may have more severe symptoms. Anti histamines are given in severe cases. Deaths are rare.

Adequate and rapid refrigeration of the fish will prevent spoilage.

The diagnosis is made on symptoms and tends to be fairly evident. Several people may come down with this at the same time.

There is no laboratory testing on the patient that is considered helpful. Measuring histamine levels on the suspected fish can be used for confirmation.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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