People never learn: Puffer fish meals kill 4

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One of the most poisonous creatures of the sea, puffer fish, has claimed the lives of four more persons in two provinces early this week, indicating a continuing lack of awareness among people about the dangers of eating the fish, locally known as “butete.”

In the island town of Jomalig, Quezon, two children are dead and nine men were hospitalized on Wednesday after eating puffer fish for lunch, according to police.

In Sagay City, Negros Occidental, two fishermen are dead and eight of their neighbors were rushed to a hospital on Tuesday after eating the same fish.

Chief Insp. Elmar Beltran Sillador, head of the Quezon police public information office, identified the dead in Jomalig as siblings Noriel Roldan, 2, and Julie Ann, 3, residents of Barangay Apad in the town.

Sillador, quoting a town police report, said the victims and nine other members of the family ate puffer fish cooked in coconut milk for lunch.

Neighbors rushed the two children to the town health center where they died while undergoing treatment.

Despite its being toxic, puffer fish dishes, properly rid of its poisonous substance, are popular among coastal villagers.

The poison found in puffer fish is tetrodotoxin, one of the deadliest found in nature, according to the website eMedicine Health.

In Sagay City, the two dead fishermen were identified as Francisco Mapalo, 42, and Romulo Celeste, 58, both of Barangay Old Sagay in the city.

Jose Aragon, an official of the city disaster risk reduction management council, said the two caught puffer fish in the afternoon of Tuesday and had these cooked. They ate the puffer fish as appetizer for alcoholic drinks and gave some to neighbors.

At about 11 p.m. the fish’s poison started to take effect.

Mapalo was declared dead on arrival at the Alfredo E. Marañon Sr. Memorial District Hospital, according to Aragon. Celeste died while undergoing treatment. Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon and Carla P. Gomez, Inquirer Visayas

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