Home News Eight Dead, Seventy-Eight Sick After Consuming Sea Turtle Meat

Eight Dead, Seventy-Eight Sick After Consuming Sea Turtle Meat

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Pemba, Tanzania:  Eight children have died and 78 people have been hospitalised after allegedly eating turtle meat on Panza Island in the Mkoani District of South Pemba Region.

The District Medical Officer for Mkoani, Dr Haji Bakari Haji, said that when he initially asked the patients what was wrong with them, they were not forthcoming.

As a result, samples were taken and sent to the laboratory for further analysis to determine the source of the problem.

Dr Haji said that out of the 86 patients who were brought to the hospital, eight have died.

He said the incident occurred on March 5th of this year on the island.

“We took 86 people to the Abdalla Mzee Mkoani Hospital, eight of whom were children who had already died. The others are in stable condition. We are waiting for the results of the laboratory tests to confirm the source of the incident,” he said.

The Sheha of Panza Ward, Haji Ali Shaali, said that they received reports from some residents claiming that the people had eaten a turtle, but they have not yet been able to verify this. They are waiting for the results of the experts’ analysis.

Miza Kombo Bakari, who lost two children, said the incident occurred on March 5 this year.

She said she did not know what caused the deaths of her children, but she saw them change and start vomiting, so they rushed them to the nearest health centre.

She said one of her children was two years old and the other six months old. They had been given treatment, but they died a short time later.

“I was not at home when I received the news that my children were sick and vomiting. We took them to the hospital, and they were given treatment, but they died a short time later,” said Miza.

A resident of the island, Hadiya Abasi Othman, said she had previously eaten the same type of fish with her children, and they had not been affected.

She said they were worried because of the panic caused by the deaths of the children and the others who are still undergoing treatment.

“I have eaten it before with my children. I got it from my sister, but we are grateful that we were not affected,” said Hadiya.

A health worker, Harub Makame Ali, said that after receiving reports of the deaths and other children being sick, they began to investigate to find out the source. Still, when they asked the residents, they claimed they did not know anything about the matter.

“I received a report yesterday morning that there had been a tragedy and that two children from one family had died. We prepared for the burial of the children, but before we could finish burying them, we received news that more children had died and that others were sick,” said Ali.

Unfortunately, this is not the first fatal incident caused by the consumption of turtle meat in Zanzibar. In 2021, seven people, including a three-year-old, died on Pemba Island after consuming poisonous turtle meat.

Although turtle meat is considered a delicacy among residents of Tanzania’s islands and coastal areas, authorities have banned its consumption due to the risk of toxicity.

Chelonitoxism, a type of food poisoning, can make turtle meat toxic, possibly due to the poisonous algae they consume.

Research indicates that this poisoning can have severe effects on children and the elderly, although healthy adults can also be affected.

Fatal cases related to the consumption of turtle meat have been reported in other parts of the world, including Madagascar, where 19 people, including nine children, died after consuming turtle meat in March 2021, according to AFP news agency reports. Similar incidents have occurred in Indonesia, Micronesia, and India’s Indian Ocean islands.