A British fish keeper revealed he and his family members became seriously ill after they breathed in toxic fumes that were released from a coral in a tank in Oxfordshire. The entire family and their two dogs were poisoned by the fumes and were hospitalized.

The incident took place last week when 27-year-old Chris Matthews cleaned his fish tank, moving the contents to another container. During the cleaning process he took out a rock covered in coral and scraped it clean, inadvertently releasing deadly palytoxin into the atmosphere.

According to Matthews, he initially did not understand the threat the fumes may have. However, the following day the entire family suffered flu-like symptoms, while his two dogs also fell ill.

"We couldn't regulate our temperature, we were struggling to breathe and coughing, We woke up the next morning feeling groggy but initially put it down to flu," Matthews told Fox News. "It was when we noticed our two dogs had similar symptoms that we knew something wasn’t right."

He added: ‘If we had spent another night in that bedroom our lives would have been in danger... Certainly our dogs would have been in a very bad way according to the vet...That is what is so worrying, what if there had been a young child or someone elderly in the house?"

Mathews suffered breathlessness, coughing and fever which he said was "as bad as pneumonia."

Later Mathews realized the coral may have been the culprit, likely poisoning his family for which he dialed 999, the local emergency contact in the United Kingdom. A massive emergency services response was launched, including ambulances, fire crews and police arriving at the house in Steventon, Oxfordshire.

Matthews, his girlfriend, mother, father, sister and her boyfriend, and four firefighters were rushed to the hospital for treatment after inhaling the poisonous fumes, which was later revealed to be palytoxin. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), palytoxin is "a potentially life-threatening toxin that can act via dermal, inhalation, and oral routes of exposure."

Talking about palytoxin, Matthews said: "I knew about palytoxin, which can kill you if ingested, and that coral can cause things like rashes if you don't handle it carefully but I had no idea taking the pulsing xenia (coral) out of the water could make the toxin airborne."

Palytoxin causes a range of effects in animals and humans, depending on the process in which they have been exposed. Most aquarium-related exposures among people occur via inhalation or skin exposures through cuts on the hands and fingers. Symptoms of palytoxin exposure includes fever, conjunctivitis, and respiratory problems in people exposed to marine aerosols during proliferations of palytoxin and palytoxin-like compound–producing marine algae, according to CDC.