Aquarium coral lands fishkeeper and family in hospital

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A man, his wife and two children were hospitalised after he tried to kill off a colony of Zoanthid corals in his reef tank.

According to PubMed.gov, the 37-year-old arrived at the local hospital emergency department with fever, hypotension and symptoms of a metallic taste in the mouth, nausea, headache, shivering and severe muscle cramps.

Symptoms appeared after he had tried to remove a colony of Zoanthids from his aquarium by pouring boiling water over them.

He, his 35-year-old wife and two 10-year-old twins all inhaled the resultant steam coming from the aquarium and had similar symptoms.

On physical examination, all family members had low blood pressure and fever with a temperature of 38.5°C. Blood analysis showed leucocytosis and an elevated CRP.

Palytoxin poisoning was diagnosed, although luckily the family recovered within 48 hours.

There is no specific therapy for or antidote to palytoxin poisoning and for this reason, treatment is supportive.

Practical Fishkeeping advises using extreme caution when handling these otherwise safe looking corals.

Palytoxin is present both in Palythoa and Zoanthus button polyps, both of which are widely available in the hobby.

The use of rubber gloves and protective eyeware is advised when handling them. Do not use boiling water.

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