9 dead, 78 hospitalized after eating sea turtle meat on Zanzibar’s Pemba Island

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ZANZIBAR, Tanzania — Eight children and an adult died and 78 other people were hospitalized after eating sea turtle meat on Pemba Island in the Zanzibar archipelago, authorities said Saturday.

Sea turtle meat is considered a delicacy by Zanzibar’s people even though it periodically results in deaths from chelonitoxism, a type of food poisoning.

The adult who died late Friday was the mother of one of the children who succumbed earlier, said the Mkoani District medical officer, Dr. Haji Bakari. He said the turtle meat was consumed Tuesday.

Bakari told The Associated Press that laboratory tests had confirmed all the victims had eaten sea turtle meat.

Authorities in Zanzibar, which is a semi-autonomous region of the East African nation of Tanzania, sent a disaster management team led by Hamza Hassan Juma, who urged people to avoid consuming sea turtles.

In November 2021, seven people, including a 3-year-old, died on Pemba after eating turtle meat, while three others were hospitalized.

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