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Rare infection linked to handling shrimp

raw shrimpHastings Prince Edward Public Health is investigating a cluster of suspected food poisoning in the Campbellford area. Preliminary lab results suggest symptoms are caused by Mycobacterium marinum (M. marinum). The suspected source of infection is the handling of fresh, raw shrimp.

marinum is a slow growing mycobacterium that is found in salt water and fresh water.  M. marinum infections produce red, painful sores on hands and arms. M. marinum is most commonly found among aquarium cleaners, fishermen and seafood handlers, but has also been associated with handling raw fish/seafood during food preparation.  There is no known risk of M. marinum infection from eating fish or seafood and it cannot be spread from person-to-person.

Typical symptoms are painful lumps on fingers and hands but infected lesions can occur elsewhere on the body. If not properly treated, M. marinum can cause open lesions that can affect bones and tendons. It can be particularly serious in people with compromised immune systems.

marinum is treatable with oral antibiotics. However, it usually requires a prolonged course of treatment with specially chosen antibiotics. Commonly used antibiotics will not cure the infection.

“I am very concerned that there are more people who have acquired this infection,” said Dr. Richard Schabas, Hastings and Prince Edward Medical Officer of Health. “Since this is such a rare disease, doctors may not suspect M. marinum as the cause of symptoms and would be unlikely to choose the right course of treatment.”

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