Nine family members, including three children, from a remote Territory community are being treated for food poisoning after eating a locally caught fish. The family group from Angurugu on Groote Eylandt were diagnosed with potentially fatal ciguatera poisoning from a gifted reef fish, known as a mother-in-law fish.

Four seriously ill adults were flown to the Royal Darwin Hospital yesterday. A 40-year-old woman is in the High Dependency ward. Two women, aged 54 and 52, and a 45-year-old man are in a stable condition. They are likely to be monitored for two to three days. There was no fish left for authorities to analyse.

Director of the Centre for Disease Control in Darwin, Vicki Krause said the poison can be very serious when it accumulates in the body. "Initially people will normally get nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhoea," she said. "They can then go on to have a tingling feeling around their lips, a tingling around their hands and their feet, they can get intense itching, headaches and muscle aches. They can also get a slow heart beat and low blood pressure."

Symptoms arise between 1 hour and 30 hours after eating. Ciguatera is a poison found in coral beds.