Cleaning out a fish tank leaves whole family seriously ill

Chris Matthews and his family of six ended up being seriously ill when they were cleaning out a fish tank at their home. The tank released a deadly poison from a coral when it was handled. The incident occurred last week.

Matthews says more people need to be aware of how dangerous this could be. His family and four firefighters were left ill after the incident last week in Steventon, Oxfordshire. They were moving and clearing out the coral from their aquarium last week when they developed flu-like symptoms and some problems in their eyes. The couple was moving the contents of a fish tank to an aquarium in their bedroom. They had taken a rock covered in coral in the fish tank and rubbed it clean. What they did not realize was that it was a coral and rubbing it let off the deadly poison palytoxin. They shut the door and went to sleep keeping the poison in the air of the bedroom that they were inhaling. They all woke up groggy, breathless, coughing and feeling ill.

Image Credit: Dmitrijs Mihejevs / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Dmitrijs Mihejevs / Shutterstock

27 years old Matthews said that they did not know that the coral released palytoxin in the air that they were breathing. This is one of the most lethal substances known to man he said and one gramme can kill 80 people according to sources. Soon after handling the coral he said he started feeling breathless and developed a cough and fever. It felt like a “bad pneumonia” he said. Soon everyone in the family including Matthews’s girlfriend, parents, sister and her boyfriend caught the sickness. The two dogs too showed symptoms of the illness. He then called the emergency services. He shudders to think what would have happened if they had spent another night in the bedroom where the aquarium was placed or if there was a child or an elderly person at home. Four firefighters attended the scene and were also taken ill along with the six family members. All 10 of them had to be rushed to the John Radcliffe Hospital after the poisoning.

Ambulance and fire crews from Abingdon and Didcot and Thames Valley Police reached the area around 8.20pm on Monday, March 26th and cordoned off the region. Within a few hours three of the family and the firefighters were discharged from the hospital while others had to be retained for observation and further tests.

Matthew explained that he knew about corals and this one – pulsing xenia, which is a pest coral. He said it is well known to people familiar with fish that when ingested the xenia can release palytoxin that is dangerous. This was the first time he realized that the toxin can become airborne if the pulsing xenia is taken out of water. He said most people who are buying these corals are not aware of this danger and he would want to raise awareness by sharing his experience.

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