A rare skin infection is spreading through New York City seafood markets, health officials said today.
The infection, caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium marinum, causes red, painful lumps under the skin, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
“If the infection is deep enough, surgery may be needed,” the department said in a statement.
Mycobacterium marinum enters the skin through cuts on the hands and arms. The resulting infection has been seen among 30 seafood handlers in Chinatowns in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, according to the health department.
“Some people infected with the bacteria had existing cuts on their hands when they touched contaminated live or raw fish or seafood. Others cut themselves while preparing contaminated live or raw fish or seafood,” the department said in a statement. “People are encouraged to wear waterproof gloves in their home when preparing live or raw fish or seafood that came from a market in Chinatown, especially if they have cuts or abrasions.”
The infection can’t pass from person-to-person, and there is no risk associated with eating seafood from the markets, the health department said.
People who develop suspicious skin lumps after handling seafood are urged to contact a dermatologist or infectious disease doctor.
“Infected people need to take one or more antibiotics to treat the infection,” the health department said, stressing that treatment should “begin quickly.”
“Some people who were infected have been treated with traditional Chinese medicine or types of antibiotics that cannot cure the infection. If the infection isn’t treated correctly, it can worsen over weeks or months and may require surgery,” the agency said.