Fourteen crew members from a Panamanian ship are in Saint John hospital suffering from food poisoning.

The ship was docked at the PotashCorp terminal Saturday when a number of individuals became ill. The ship was loaded and prepared to leave Saint John, but has been delayed.

Three crew members are in the intensive care unit at the Saint John Regional Hospital, and eleven others are listed in serious but stable condition.

The food poisoning is believed to be ciguatera fish poisoning, which is caused by eating tropical fish that consumed toxin-producing algae. New Brunswick medical officer of health Dr. Cristin Muecke says there is no risk to Canadians. The five crew members who did not consume the fish are not ill.

“The risk is limited to those on the ship only, as this is related to fish that was obtained on international waters before they arrived in port,” Dr. Muecke said.

The food poisoning can lead to gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, neurological symptoms such as numbness and weakness, and cardiac symptoms such as heart rhythm problems. Ciguatera fish poisoning is rarely fatal, but the severity of the illness depends on how much tainted fish was consumed.

“The algae is toxic to the fish as well, to a certain degree, but it can be amplified through the food chain and so larger predatory fish are more likely to cause illness,” Dr. Muecke said.

The Saint John Regional Hospital enacted its mass casualty, or “code orange” plan to treat the sailors. Their treatment could take days or weeks, depending on their symptoms.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ashley Blackford & Andy Campbell