New York Fish Market Skin Infections Linked to Seafood in Chinatown

A rare skin infection has caused more than two dozen people to suffer painful red rashes and lumps under the skin after coming into contact with raw fish and seafood purchased at one of New York City’s Chinatown fish markets.

The raw seafood bacteria outbreak was announced by the New York City Health Department on March 5, after 30 people experienced Mycobacterium marinum, commonly referred to as M. marinum, which causes people to experience red, painful lumps under the skin. The NYC Health Department announced the bacteria can enter the skin if the handlers have cuts on their hands and arms.

M. Marinum is an atypical Mycobacterium species found in cold, warm, fresh, or salted water and typically poses the biggest threat to those who handle raw seafood, marine animals or are frequently in aquatic environments. The bacteria is treatable with common antibiotics, but the NYC Health Department stressed that treatment should be pursued quickly. If treatment is not sought quickly after contraction, the infection may worsen and require surgery to remove.

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The Health Department has received reports of infected handlers from the Chinatown markets in Lower Manhattan, Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn over the last six months.

The Department of Health is still investigating the outbreak to determine if it is the markets that are at risk or if it’s a specific kind of fish or seafood being sold.

Anyone who has purchased raw seafood from the Chinatown markets are encouraged to handle the seafood with caution by wearing waterproof gloves in their home during preparation, especially if they have any cuts or abrasions. Health officials announced that there is no risk of catching the infection by eating the seafood if it is cooked properly.

The health department advises that consumers who have bought fish or seafood from these markets and have experienced any symptoms or believe they are at risk should see a dermatologist or infectious disease physician immediately and explain that you think you may be infected with M. marinum. Customers with further questions may contact the Health Department’s Bureau of Communicable Disease at 347-396-2600.

Photo Courtesy of adactio via Flickr CC


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