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Pufferfish Gift Sends 11 Family Members to Hospital

In an act of goodwill gone terribly wrong, an extremely poisonous variety of the pufferfish was given to the Souza family of Rio de Janeiro. The family proceeded to cook the delicacy, inviting extended family members to partake in the feast due to the “tasty” appearance of the dish.

In a matter of moments, the tongues and mouths of 11 family members began to go numb, followed by their faces and extremities.

Cristiane Souza relayed the story to Brazil’s RJ TV telling how her husband Jose Augusto, 41 was the first to feel the effects. “My husband was the first to say he couldn’t feel his tongue, then his face, and then his arms. Then his legs went dead and he couldn’t stand up any more. It was terrifying.”

One by one, almost in order of who had taken the first, second and third bites, family members began experiencing the same symptoms.

“My brother-in-law was the same. He didn’t even make it out the door,” explained Souza. “We had to carry them out and rush them to hospital in a car.”

The pufferfish was initially caught by a family friend who was on a fishing expedition in Dubque de Caxias, off the Brazilian coast. The fisherman unknowingly gave the family the poisonous fish, which is said to contain toxins 1,200 times more lethal than a drop of cyanide. Improperly cooked pufferfish can be fatal to a human in less than 24 hours.

Grandmother Maria do Carmo was left unscathed by the toxins after she courteously waited for other family members to try the dish first. “We had no idea it was a pufferfish. They’re all in a critical condition. My grandson, my daughter, and my son-in-law, they are all in hospital. We’re praying for a miracle.”

It remains unclear how the Souza family failed to recognize the distinct appearance and spines that are true of all pufferfish.

Pufferfish or “Fugu,” as called in Japan, is a special delicacy in which chefs are in a sense risking their diner’s lives by serving the dish. Only after receiving three years of training and getting a special certificate, are chefs allowed to prepare a “Fugu” a dish.

According to statistics from the Tokyo Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health, there are anywhere from 20- 44 incidents of “Fugu” poisoning every year.

Victims can be saved by having their stomachs pumped and be fed charcoal, which binds to the toxin. If left untreated, victims become paralyzed and suffocate to death while still conscious. 

Photo Credit: WikiCommons


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