New Brunswick

Balsa 85 ID'd as ship in Saint John whose crew was hit by food poisoning

Two-thirds of the crew of the Balsa 85 remain in hospital after a bout of food poisoning struck many of its crew members.

It is believed the type of food poisoning is ciguatera

Food poisoning hits Japanese ship in Saint John

7 years ago
Duration 1:35
Two-thirds of the Balsa 85's crew are in hospital in serious but stable condition

Two-thirds of the crew of the Balsa 85 are in hospital in serious, but stable condition after a bout of food poisoning struck many of the crew members.

Sixteen of 19 crew members ate fish on board the vessel, but only 14 have developed food poisoning. The fish was obtained in international waters.

Both the ship's captain and cook are suffering from food poisoning.

The working diagnosis is the crew has ciguatera, says Cristin Muecke, New Brunswick's medical officer of health.

According to the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ciguatera "is an illness caused by eating fish that contain toxins produced by a marine microalgae called Gambierdiscus toxicus."

The site says some of the symptoms of ciguatera are nausea, vomiting and neurological symptoms such as tingling fingers or toes.

There is no cure for ciguatera, but its symptoms can be treated.

"Symptoms usually go away in days or weeks but can last for years," says CDC's website.

Muecke says the crew members are being intensely monitored in hospital.

3 crew members in intensive care

Saint John Regional Hospital implemented its code orange mass casualty plan on Saturday after 13 people with food poisoning arrived at the emergency room.

Three crew members are in the intensive care unit.

The crew told New Brunswick health officials they ate the fish around noon on Saturday, and went to the emergency room three hours later.

Because there are only five healthy crew members remaining, they have to stay on board the vessel for safety reasons.

According to the Saint John Port's website, the Balsa 85 is carrying potash for foreign ports.

A U.S. Coast Guard document lists the vessel's owner as Hiong Guan Navegacin Co. Ltd., a Japanese company. The company will have to fly in replacements for the ill crew because they will be kept in observation for several days.

The crew members are all Filipinos.

The Balsa 85 was loaded and ready to leave port when the men fell ill on Saturday.

The sick crew do not live in Saint John and there is no danger to the city's residents, said Muecke.


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