The New Bride Ordered Fish. It Was a 'Death Sentence'

Christine Fensome died of ciguatera poisoning, says her family
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 14, 2016 7:33 AM CDT
The New Bride Ordered Fish. It Was a 'Death Sentence'
Snapper, known to carry ciguatera, is seen in this file photo.   (NOAA Fisheries via AP)

After her husband was killed in a hit-and-run in 2004, Christine Fensome essentially hid in her house for five years, her family says. Then she met a man with whom she found happiness again. That happiness, however, was cut short. Just 10 days after their Sept. 17 wedding, the British woman awoke on her honeymoon in Mexico with "terrible sickness and diarrhea with funny sounds coming from her throat," her mom tells the Telegraph. Fensome, 54—who had eaten grouper the previous night, per the Sun—was rushed to a hospital, where she died within 10 minutes. The cause: ciguatera poisoning—an illness caused by eating contaminated reef fish—which caused her to have a heart attack, her brother says; fatal cases are rare.

Experts explain a toxin produced naturally by algae and found primarily in the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Central America is consumed by small reef fish, which are eaten by larger reef fish like snapper and amberjack that make their way onto dinner plates. A study notes cooking doesn't eliminate the toxin, usually concentrated in organs or viscera; it can lead to months of nasty symptoms from poor circulation to shooting pains. Though as many as 50,000 cases of ciguatera poisoning may occur annually—the number is expected to spike as the algae moves into the Gulf of Mexico and US southeast Atlantic—information about this "hidden death sentence ... appears to be quite limited," says Fensome's brother. "If anything can come from my sister's death it is raising awareness about eating fish abroad." (This newlywed was killed by lightning.)

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