Director of Health Promotion and Protection in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Eva Lewis Fuller, says there have been 194 suspected cases of ackee poisoning in Jamaica.
Speaking at a press briefing at the Ministry of Health, downtown Kingston, on Tuesday, February 22, Dr. Lewis Fuller stated that all parishes have been affected by the outbreak. However those in the north east region have been more seriously affected.
She said that the Ministry has been investigating some unusual characteristics of the current outbreak.
“It is not following the pattern that we are used to in the old days, when it affected mainly children under five years of age and was evenly distributed between men and women,” she said.
She explained that some 60 per cent of those with suspected ackee poisoning are men between the ages of 25 and 44 years.
“We are currently carrying out more tests on the ackee itself, in collaboration with scientists who normally do test for the trade, and we are also looking at the metabolites or the breakdown products of the Hypoglycin in humans. The government chemist is looking into doing those test for us,” Dr. Lewis Fuller said.
She added that the natural poisons found in ackee are Hypoglycin A and B, while noting that Hypoglycin has the effect of lowering the blood sugar in humans to levels where persons become unconscious, which may lead to death.
Symptoms of ackee poisoning include vomiting, stomach cramps or abdominal pains, dizziness, diarrhea and sweating, and persons experiencing these symptoms should immediately seek medical attention, and should have a sweet drink while on their way to the health centre or hospital.
Of the 194 cases of suspected ackee poisoning, 148 persons were hospitalized and 23 were killed from eating the fruit.
The Ministry of Health advised that before consuming ackee, individuals must ensure that the ackee is: mature and fully opened; thoroughly cleaned by removing the seed and the pinkish/reddish membrane; washed properly and cooked; and must dispose of the water and cook other foods such as salt fish, ground provisions and rice, separately.
Cases of ackee poisoning in Jamaica are isolated and usually occur when ackee is improperly prepared, in domestic situations.The Ministry of Health continues to monitor the situation and educate the public on the proper selection and preparation of ackees, to prevent these incidents from occurring.
CONTACT: LATONYA LINTON