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in this short presentation, I would like to briefly discuss fish tank diseases that can be transmitted to humans. Some can be difficult to cure and some diseases can be quickly FATAL.

Bonus in Humid/Tropical Climates.




Fish-handler's disease is a nonspecific term that is in the medical and lay literature that describes a disease or syndrome of humans that may occur after handling fish or, in some instances, other aquatic organisms. There are a number of other similar terms that essentially describe the same disease. They are as follows:

Fish-handler's disease
Fish handler's nodules
Fish tank granuloma
Swimming pool granuloma
Fish tuberculosis
Picine tuberculosis
"Erysipeloid" infection or lesions
Mycobacteriosis

The disease has so many names because so many different outbreaks have been associated with occupations (fishermen or lobstermen), hobbies (tropical fish tanks, pet shop workers), or water sports (boating, swimming pool use). Researchers also discovered that at least two different genera of bacteria (Mycobacterium and Erysipelothrix) were the main causative infective agents of the disease. These findings added to the proliferation of names. Although some of the symptoms (mainly lesions on the extremities) caused by the organisms are similar, other symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment are somewhat different. This article is designed to discuss these two major causes of fish-handler's disease.

Fish-handler's disease occurs when cuts or scrapes in the skin become infected with the bacteria Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae and other species. This is an erysipeloid infection. Handling and preparing fish and shellfish and many other similar activities can create small cuts and scrapes in the skin, where bacteria may enter. Developing fish-handler's disease requires deliberate contact with fish, particularly lobster and other shellfish. Fish-handler's disease occurs worldwide wherever fish and shellfish are handled.

Fish-handler's disease also occurs when cuts or scrapes in the skin become infected with the bacteria of the Mycobacterium, type, mainly the species marinum and fortuitum. Handling tropical fish, coral, cleaning aquariums, swimming pools, fishing, lobster catching, and many other similar activities can introduce the bacteria into cuts and scrapes. This disease is worldwide and can be associated with almost any organism that inhabits saltwater, freshwater, or brackish water. One of the newest outbreaks occurred in Chesapeake Bay with about 76% of striped bass found to have an infection with Mycobacterium.

Fish or other aquatic organisms with visible surface lesions should be not be handled with bare hands (wear gloves to help prevent infections) and not eaten. However, cooked aquatic organisms have not been reported to cause fish-handler's disease.

VIBRIO infections.
Several species can infect humans: V. ALGINOLYTICUS (wound infections), V.DAMSELA (wound/systemic infections), V. PARAHAEMOLYTICUS (gastroenteritis/wound infections),V.VULNIFICUS (wound/gastroenteritis/systemic infections).
Systemic infections with vulnificus or damsela can be rapidly FATAL, or lead to limb amputation.. Systemic infections gotten through wounds.
Incubation of vulnificus is 1-5 days; median time is 28 hours. Symptoms include high fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, low blood pressure, seizures, fluid-filled skin lesions, etc.
Gastrointestinal infections via ingestion of vulnificus (eating raw oysters, etc) and other species of Vibrio can cause rapid dehydration, and can lead to systemic infections if bacteria enter blood. Vulnificus can multiply so rapidly that blood vessels and organs get clogged...sometimes leading to amputation or death. - Antibiotics utilized have been tetracycline, ampicillin, penicillin, gentamycin, etc. (Also see Dr. Bingman's paper of 4/6/97 at REEFS LIBRARY).
More Fish Disease Info
Freshwater Fish Disease
Manual of Fish Health
Freshwater Fish Disease Forum
Sick Fish, What To Do
Fish Pop-Eye
ERYSIPELOTHRIX RHUSIOPATHIAE, also known as erythema migrans, fish-handler's disease, fish poisoning, fish hand, sealer's finger, whale finger, blubber finger, etc.
Disease primarily occupational .....people handling animals or their wastes can get it, e.g.: butchers, meat-processing workers, animal caretakers, farmers, fishermen, veterinarians, cooks/housewives, sewer workers, etc. Can persist in frozen meats.
Incubation 1-7 days. Fever, malaise, pain in muscles & joints, severe headaches. Infections can go internal to C. nervous system/heart. Most commonly seen on hands-can lead to acute arthritis of finger joints.
Bacterial infection through break in skin. Carried by many animals, including dolphins, shellfish, and fish. - Also known as "diamond skin disease," where diamond-shaped welts occur on the skin due to infection.
Effects usually benign, but can be fatal. Systemic treatment is with antibiotics.
SALMONELLA... over 1600 serotypes identified.

Infection by ingestion. Carried by many types of animals.
Mild to severe gastroenteritis. Can by fatal thru rapid dehydration, septicemia, fecal infections.
Incubation is 7-72 hours.
MAD FISH DISEASE ... caused by STREPTOCOCCUS INIAE.

Recently reported from handling tilapia. Infection via puncture wounds.
Can cause fever, shaking, meningitis, arthritis, and skin/blood infections.
To protect yourself - do not handle organisms/water/tanks if you have skin breaks; do not dive if you have skin breaks; do not mouth-siphon tank water, do not ingest raw seafood, etc. Wash hands, etc. well after working on tanks, with seafood, and after diving. If punctured, or injured under water, allow the wound to bleed freely for a while to expel injected bacteria, then sterilize and protect wound.
Those people with weakened immune systems are at greater risk for getting the above infections. So people with AIDS, diabetes, liver dysfunction, kidney problems, or undergoing cancer treatment, etc. should be especially careful. (SEE: Hubbert et al. Diseases Transmitted from Animals to Man. Charles C. Thomas, Publisher. ISBN 0-398-03056-1)

Toxins produced by RED TIDE organisms and PFIESTERIA PISCICIDA can affect humans in various ways.

PFIESTERIA exposure can lead to skin sores, memory loss, narcosis ("drugged" effect), reddening of eyes, severe headaches, blurred vision, nausea/vomiting, difficulty in breathing, kidney/liver dysfunction, severe cognitive impairment (can't remember name, address, etc), etc.
Relapses have happened 6 years after initial exposure.
PFIESTERIA is now classed as a BIOHAZARD III, and can be researched only in specially-equipped labs.
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