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Environ Health Perspect. 2014 Jun;122(6):580-6. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1307196. Epub 2014 Mar 11.

Ciguatera fish poisoning and climate change: analysis of National Poison Center Data in the United States, 2001-2011.

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Department of Epidemiology, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.



Warm sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are positively related to incidence of ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP). Increased severe storm frequency may create more habitat for ciguatoxic organisms. Although climate change could expand the endemic range of CFP, the relationship between CFP incidence and specific environmental conditions is unknown.


We estimated associations between monthly CFP incidence in the contiguous United States and SST and storm frequency in the Caribbean basin.


We obtained information on 1,102 CFP-related calls to U.S. poison control centers during 2001-2011 from the National Poison Data System. We performed a time-series analysis using Poisson regression to relate monthly CFP call incidence to SST and tropical storms. We investigated associations across a range of plausible lag structures.


Results showed associations between monthly CFP calls and both warmer SSTs and increased tropical storm frequency. The SST variable with the strongest association linked current monthly CFP calls to the peak August SST of the previous year. The lag period with the strongest association for storms was 18 months. If climate change increases SST in the Caribbean 2.5-3.5 °C over the coming century as projected, this model implies that CFP incidence in the United States is likely to increase 200-400%.


Using CFP calls as a marker of CFP incidence, these results clarify associations between climate variability and CFP incidence and suggest that, all other things equal, climate change could increase the burden of CFP. These findings have implications for disease prediction, surveillance, and public health preparedness for climate change.

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