Eight children and one adult died from illness after eating sea turtle meat on a remote African island

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Eight children and one adult have died on a remote African island, and dozens have been hospitalized after eating sea turtle meat, considered a delicacy in the region despite known risks of food poisoning, including the risk of death.

At least 78 other people fell ill during the incident earlier this week on Pemba Island, a remote tropical area in the Zanzibar archipelago off the east coast of Africa. NBC reports.

Dr. Haji Bakari, Makwani District Medical Officer, said that the adult who died from eating turtle meat on Friday was the mother of one of the children who lost their lives. He told The Associated Press that laboratory tests confirmed that all of those who became ill ate sea turtle meat on Tuesday.

All nine people who died, as well as 78 others who were hospitalized, were confirmed to have recently eaten sea turtle meat, which can cause a fatal form of food poisoning called botulism. Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images

The poisonings mirror a similar incident that occurred on Pemba Island in November 2021, where seven people, including a three-year-old child, died after eating turtle meat.

Sea turtle meat is widely considered a delicacy in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region that, along with Tanganyika, forms the United Republic of Tanzania.

However, the risks of taking it are widely known.

Sea turtle meat can be contaminated with botulism, a type of food poisoning The National Institutes of Health says It causes gastrointestinal symptoms, followed by “neurotoxicity, hepatic and renal toxicity.”

It also specifically warns that breastfeeding mothers with chelonitoxin poisoning can transmit the poison to their infants, and details incidents in Micronesia and Madagascar where infants died as a result.

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Eight of the nine victims were children, who the National Institutes of Health says are particularly vulnerable to chemical poisoning, including infants who can be exposed to poisoning through their mothers' milk. Global Image Collection via Getty Images
Sea turtle meat is considered a delicacy in Zanzibar, despite the known potential risks of consuming it, including a fatal form of food poisoning. W layer/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

Following the poisonings, authorities in Zanzibar sent a disaster management team to plead with people not to eat sea turtle meat, NBC reported.

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