Thursday, March 6, 2014

TOUCHING FISH CAN MAKE YOU ILL

If you suddenly find that you have bumps under the skin or tender lesions that look like those in the photo (Courtesy of the New York City Health Department) and they do not heal, you may want to see a doctor. This is especially the case if you have recently bought fish from one of New York’s fish markets located in Sunset Park, Brooklyn; Flushing, Queens; or Chinatown, in Manhattan.

The cause could be a bacterium called Mycobacterium marinum. This bacterium is common in fish and aquariums but it rarely causes infections in humans – until now. Recently there has been a cluster.

You don’t get ill from eating a fish that carries M. Marinum, but from touching it when you have a cut or abrasion on your hands. If not treated quickly with specific antibiotics, the infection can spread to the soft tissue below the skin and then get into your tendons and muscles. If untreated for a long time, you may even end up having to have surgery to repair damage to those damaged muscles, nerves or tendons.

So which fish is the cause and where did it come from? At the moment, we don’t know, but the investigation is ongoing.

By the way, there is no evidence that eating the fish from any of those markets could make you ill – just touching it. And, it can’t spread to other people if you have an infection. At least, that is the current thinking.

So the advice for now – wear waterproof gloves when preparing your fish. Some cuts on your hands can be so small that you are not even aware of them – but large enough to let bacteria get in.

To your good health,

TSF

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