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Sea Cucumber Irritation

Sea Cucumber Irritation Overview

Sea cucumbers are echinoderm (class Holothuriodea) that have an elongated body shaped like a cucumber with tentacles that encircle their mouths. Sea cucumbers live in temperate, subtropical, and tropical waters. They are not aggressive creatures, so human contact with them is often intentional of the part of the human. Sea cucumbers are harvested as food in the South Pacific. Contact with a sea cucumber's excrement or eating an inadequately cooked sea cucumber can cause a rash. The irritating toxin is located in the outer covering and other appendages and can be secreted into the surrounding water.

Sea Cucumber Irritation Signs and Symptoms

  • Contact with a sea cucumber may produce a skin rash. This is usually minimal due to dilution of the toxin with surrounding sea water.
  • On shore handlers can be exposed to the toxin without dilution and therefore the rash and reaction can be much more pronounced.
  • Severe eye irritation, due to irritation of the cornea and conjunctiva of the eyes can result in severe inflammation which can result in blindness in severe or untreated cases. This is partially a risk for diver who clears a mask in the area where a sea cucumber was recently manipulated.
  • Ingestion of undercooked sea cucumber has been known to cause death.
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The phylum Echinodermata includes a diverse group of marine animals that are slow moving and nonaggressive, including brittle stars (class Ophiuroidea), starfish (class Asteroidea), sea urchins (class Echinoidea), and sea cucumbers (class Holothuroidea).

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