Aquarium Corals Poison People, Dogs And Cat in Alaska

by | Sep 27, 2015 | Corals | 7 comments

Dragon's Eye CoralNow here is a story that I found it quite hard to believe until I checked the source and saw it was from the very credible Scientific American. There are few places that seem less  coral attack than Anchorage, Alaska. And yet the coral managed to poison around a dozen people and animals in their homes and places of work in Anchorage over the last few years. Most recently a man arrived at an Anchorage, Alaska hospital with some very peculiar symptoms on August 12, 2014. He complained of fever, cough, nausea, pain, and a bitter metallic taste in his mouth. He claimed it was due to a zoanthid coral in his 200 gallon home aquarium, which was located inside of his 1200 square foot mobile home. The man had not touched the coral, but it had been transferred into his aquarium that same day by a relative. While the coral was being transferred, some coral pieces feel onto his floor.  There were three people sleeping in the house the night after the coral was transferred, and all woke with similar symptoms. According to the CDC’s venerable Morbidity and Mortality Weekly, “Patients A and C noted a visible mist and sensed humidity in the mobile home on the morning after coral introduction, leading them to suspect a possible problem with the aquarium”. These stories strongly imply the toxin can go airborne to sicken people. Although this seems very unlikely, it was confirmed by the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly from scientists at Alaska’s Division of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration according to the report. It is not the corals but a substance called palytoxin, a molecule that binds to the sodium-potassium ATPase, that is to blame for the poisoning. Palytoxin can get into animals and people. Thankfully all individuals recovered. MORE

  • Francis Yupangco

    Francis is a marine biologist with an MBA and over 20 years of professional aquarium experience. Francis is the former Aquatic Development Manager at Hagen USA., makers of Fluval brand aquarium products. He co-stars on Nat Geo WILD's reality TV series Fish Tank Kings where he is the resident "Fish Geek" and was Director of Marketing at Living Color Aquariums. He is an avid explorer having visited over 45 countries and lived in 7. At 17, he was among the youngest aquarists ever hired by the Vancouver Aquarium, where he worked for 7 years. His aquatic biology experience ranges from larval fish rearing to the design, construction and operational management of renowned public aquariums around the world. Francis is currently head of marketing at the world's largest vertically integrated fish farming company.

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  1. Bree Stuckwisch

    Palytoxin is very real and can be very dangerous! Always use caution when fragging or transferring!

  2. Jamie Mohler

    I read this story yesterday! Pretty scary.

  3. Justin Credabel Grabel

    It can indeed become aerosolized, and quite easily at that. Be careful my friends, though the small polyp, Z. scocietus type tend to be far less toxic.

  4. Brad Neville

    I got palytoxin poisoning once and it sucks! you need to be so careful


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