Family of Three Dies After Eating Toxic Puffer Fish in Arakan State

By Moe Myint 18 May 2017

RANGOON – A family from southern Arakan State’s Gwa Township died after eating a lunch of puffer fish curry late Wednesday morning, according to local police.

The puffer fish is recognized as a potentially toxic delicacy among Gwa residents, but some consume the tender flesh by removing the thorny skin, as well as the stomach, intestines and liver. These parts contain tetrodotoxin, a neurotoxin that causes rapid paralysis, leading to respiratory failure.

A Gwa police officer said that fisherman Ko Toe Myint Swe, of Shweya Chai village in Ma Kyi Ngu village tract, brought home a puffer fish and cooked it without properly removing the intestines or liver.

The police official said Ko Toe Myint Swe, his wife Ma Nwe Nwe Hlaing and six-year-old daughter Ma Lin Latt Wai were unconscious within moments of having lunch.

Locals transported the victims to Gwa hospital, arriving at around 11:30 a.m.

“As the patients reached the hospital, Ko Toe Myint Swe died within a couple of minutes. Then, his daughter passed away. Ma Nwe Nwe Hlaing was able to explain the troubles to doctors for a few minutes and then her soul left her body,” the police said.

A local free funeral service volunteer Ko Kyaw Myint Maung, who helped bring the victims to Gwa general hospital on Wednesday, said that villagers from the region typically know that the bile in the gallbladder of the puffer fish can be life threatening, and noted that hunters use it as poison to kill wild animals.

“Every fisherman knows that eating meat of the blowfish is okay, but having the liver and intestines can be life threatening,” Ko Kyaw Myint Maung said, speculating that the victims may not have fully removed the bile.

Police said that the medical report listed the cause of death as food poisoning. The Irrawaddy was not able to obtain comments from Gwa general hospital at the time of reporting on Thursday.