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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/59

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51
FOOD POISONING.

other is a white, waxy body. From 1885 to 1892 inclusive, 933 cases of poisoning with this fish were reported in Tokio, with a mortality of seventy-two per cent.

Fish poisoning is quite frequently observed in the West Indies, where the complex of symptoms is designated by the Spanish term siguatera. It is believed by the natives that the poisonous properties of the fish are due to the fact that they feed upon decomposing medusæ and corals. In certain localities it is stated that all fish caught off certain coral reefs are unfit for food. However, all statements concerning the origin and nature of the poison in these fish are mere assumptions, since no scientific work has been done. Whatever the source of the poison may be, it is quite powerful, and death not infrequently results. The symptoms are those of gastro-intestinal irritation followed by collapse.

In Russia fish poisoning sometimes causes severe and widespread epidemics. The Government has offered a large reward for any one who will positively determine the cause of the fish being poisonous and suggest successful means of preventing these outbreaks. Schmidt, after studying several of these epidemics, states the following conclusions:

(a) The harmful effects are not due to putrefactive processes. (b) Fish poisoning in Russia is always due to the eating of some member of the sturgeon tribe, (c) The ill effects are not due to the method of catching the fish, the use of salt, or to imperfections in the methods of preservation, (d) The deleterious substance is not uniformly distributed through the fish, but is confined to certain parts, (e) The poisonous portions are not distinguishable from the nonpoisonous, either macroscopically or microscopically. (f) When the fish is cooked it may be eaten without harm, (g) The poison is an animal alkaloid produced most probably by bacteria that cause an infectious disease in the fish during life.

The conclusion reached by Schmidt is confirmed by the researches of Madame Sieber, who found a poisonous bacillus in fish which had caused an epidemic.

In the United States fish poisoning is most frequently due to decomposition in canned fish. The most prominent symptoms are nausea, vomiting, and purging. Sometimes there is a scarlatinous rash, which may cover the whole body. The writer has studied two outbreaks of this kind of fish poisoning. In both instances canned salmon was the cause of the trouble. Although a discussion of the treatment of food poisoning is foreign to this paper, the writer must call attention to the danger in the administration of opiates in cases of poisoning with canned fish. Vomiting and purging are efforts on the part of Nature to remove the poison, and